Jersey Reds are set to lock horns with former European champions Saracens when they kick off their 2020/21 Greene King IPA Championship season on the second weekend of March.
After a lengthy delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Championship season has been confirmed, with 11 clubs set to do battle during March, April and May. Each club will play 10 games, with the top two sides contesting the title, and promotion, in a two-legged final in June.
The Reds’ participation remains subject to consent from the Government of Jersey, with final details set to be discussed this week.
As part of preparations for the season, the Reds have agreed to surrender home advantage for two games during the early rounds of the season, with the first of three home games scheduled for the weekend of April 24th, when Nottingham will visit Stade Santander International.
It is also hoped to confirm two away friendly games during February, followed by the first league game: the tantalising prospect of a visit to the StoneX Stadium, home of Saracens, who were relegated from the Gallagher Premiership last season. Saracens v Jersey Reds is set for the weekend of 13th March.
Jersey Reds Chairman Mark Morgan said the club was excited at the prospect of the new season kicking off, albeit six months later than the traditional September start date.
“There’s been a lot of hard work taking place behind the scenes to get to this point, with a series of extra protocols and testing requirements to ensure a high level of mitigation against Covid-19,” he said.
“We have been working closely with the Government of Jersey and understand the need to make sure all necessary precautions are taken. There are still some remaining details to be finalised, but we are hopeful this process will be completed soon.
“As part of our willingness to be flexible in order to get the season started, we have indicated that we are willing to accept a 3:7 split of home and away games, and are grateful to both Richmond and Doncaster Knights for helping us reach an understanding about hosting us on the weekends when they were due to fly to Jersey.”
Games are initially likely to be played behind closed doors, with work taking place regarding arrangements for online streaming of matches to enable supporters to follow their side from home.
Morgan said he hoped that some spectators may be able to attend the Reds’ trio of home games during late April and May, but said this would depend on government guidance regarding gatherings.
“We would love to think we might be able to have our supporters back at Stade Santander International by the time the Pirates visit us at the end of May,’ he added. “We won’t be able to confirm that for some time, but it’s a nice prospect as long as the recovery from the pandemic continues.”
This season’s Championship will be played as part of the UK elite sport framework that has enabled many sports to stage events during the pandemic, with a rigorous Covid-19 testing regime and detailed protocols to minimise the risk of transmission.
The Reds’ most recent Championship game was at home to eventual title winners Newcastle Falcons on Saturday February 29th last year, with the season cancelled in mid-March as a result of the pandemic.
Further details about fixtures, transport arrangements, online streaming and the Reds’ playing squad will be shared shortly.
Jersey Reds – Greene King IPA Championship 2020/21
* = Reds’ home game set to be switched to opponents’ ground
w/e Mar 6th: bye week
w/e Mar 13th: Saracens (A)
w/e Mar 20th: Richmond (A*)
w/e Mar 27th: Bedford Blues (A)
w/e Apr 10th: Doncaster Knights (A*)
w/e Apr 17th: Ealing Trailfinders (A)
w/e Apr 24th: Nottingham Rugby (H)
w/e May 1st: Ampthill (A)
w/e May 15th: Coventry Rugby (H)
w/e May 22nd: Hartpury University (A)
Sat May 29th: Cornish Pirates (H)
w/e June 12th: Championship Final (1st leg)
w/e June 19th: Championship Final (2nd leg)