Jersey Reds have welcomed news regarding a start date being announced for the 2020/21 Greene King IPA Championship.
The RFU has issued a statement as below, with reaction following from Reds' Chairman Mark Morgan.
The Greene King IPA Championship will commence the 2020/21 season on the weekend of 6th March, 2021.
Operating under the elite sport framework, the Greene King IPA Championship league will be split into two conferences. Teams will play home and away within their conference producing 10 competition rounds, subsequent to which there will be a two leg play-off final between the winner of each conference to determine the team that will earn promotion to the Gallagher Premiership for the 2021/22 season.
The conferences will be determined by the final standings after the 2019/2020 season ended in March 2020; with Saracens taking the place of Newcastle Falcons and Richmond replacing Yorkshire Carnegie. Clubs ranked first, third, fifth. seventh (the Reds' position), ninth and 11th will be grouped together, with the 'even' clubs forming the second conference.
Therefore, the two Conferences will be:
Saracens, Cornish Pirates, Ampthill, Jersey Reds, London Scottish, Hartpury University
Ealing Trailfinders, Coventry, Nottingham, Bedford Blues, Doncaster Knights, Richmond
Given the possibility of no crowds being allowed for some of the season, and wishing to take Championship rugby to a wider audience, it is hoped to stream as many of the matches as possible.
As a result of Championship clubs having little or no income for the last nine months the majority do not have the financial ability to meet the costs of Covid testing required under the elite sport framework. The clubs have, therefore, been in regular dialogue with the RFU to consider options and solutions to conclude the season.
The clubs have chosen not to return to play under adapted laws and the March start date allows time for clubs to gain clarity from Sport England regarding the Sport Winter Survival Package before starting pre-season training.
All Championship clubs are unanimously behind the intended competition as outlined, but require some weeks of full training, to make squads “match ready”, subsequent to the long absence of competitive rugby.
A small number of Championship clubs have returned to training operating under the elite sport framework and may arrange pre-season friendlies ahead of the restart in early March.
Jersey Reds' Chairman Mark Morgan welcomed the news.
"It's very exciting to have a start date - something for everyone to look forward to in the new year," he said. "Even though Covid-19 has continued to have a major impact on all our lives at the end of 2020, we are delighted that by March it should be possible to play competitive rugby again, more than a year after our last game.
"From a rugby perspective, we have preparing for some time and the squad will be energised by news of the start date once they return to training after Christmas.
"We are working with our government and the other relevant authorities about travel arrangements, as well as looking at the logistics for our trips to and from games. The Championship falls under the same elite sport umbrella as professional football, Premiership rugby and county/international cricket, which have all been staging games for several months having adopted strict Covid-19 protocols regarding testing and hygiene.
"In common with other Championship clubs, we are continuing to work on ensuring adequate funding is available for the abbreviated season ahead and discussions are ongoing about this."
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