Leeds Rhinos chief Gary Hetherington says news on Super League resumption likely in '7-10 days'

An announcement on how and when Betfred Super League will resume could be seven to 10 days away, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington says.

Thursday, 18th June 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 9:32 am

The competition has been on hold, because of coronavirus, since March 15.

It is expected to return behind closed doors in two months’ time, with round eight pencilled in for August 16 and games in hand played in the two weeks before that.

But that has yet to be confirmed and it is still unclear how many matches will be played and when and where the Grand Final will be held.

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Fans of Leeds Rhinos and other clubs could hear details of the sport's resumption by the end of this month. Picture by Steve Riding.

A proposal for the season to continue into January has been dropped and The Yorkshire Evening Post understands the favourite option is for 22 rounds - including those already played - leading to a title decider in November.

That would mean scrapping the six ‘loop’ rounds, when teams meet for a third time, as well as the Magic Weekend.

Rhinos, with two games in hand, would therefore have 17 league matches to play before the semi-finals, plus Coral Challenge Cup ties.

Also being considered is an alternative plan which would see the Grand Final staged just before Christmas.

Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Hetherington is on the competition’s fixtures working group and insisted: “There is a lot going on behind the scenes.”

He said: “There’s two big pieces of work really.

“The first is the return to training protocols for all the Super League players and everything that involves - testing procedures and facilities and so on.

“The RFL in many ways are heading up that whole process, liaising closely with government. That has all got to be put in place before players can return to training and I do know there’s a lot of work going on in that regard.

Leeds Rhinos have not played since March 5, when Rob Lui was among the try scorers in a big win over Toronto Wolfpack. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“Then in terms of fixtures, there’s daily conference calls and the working group, which I am on, has done a lot of work already.

“The three proposals got leaked to the press a few weeks ago, but all they were was different possibilities and scenarios, based on this, that and the other.

“That is still the case, but we are now getting some more certainty so those can be refined. Sky television has also got to be factored in and their preferences, but we know when we return it is going to be behind closed doors and that brings its own challenges.

“That is progressing on a daily basis and I think it is probably seven to 10 days away from a public announcement, but we are getting closer to a bit of certainty as to when we are going to be back playing.”

Hetherington was keen for a full 29-round league campaign, but - with the January Grand Final option having been shelved - that now seems unrealistic.

He said there is “no reason” why matches can’t resume in August, but stressed issues with testing players and staff for coronavirus - likely to cost each club more than £5,000 every week - will need to be resolved.

“There’s all sorts of things to take into account,” the Leeds chief added.

“Clearly we want to fulfil as much of the fixtures list as possible, but at the same time we want it to be top quality.

“We are mindful of workload and number of fixtures and so on. You can only squeeze so much in; clearly the season is going to be extended, we want a top-quality competition and the number of games is going to be a factor.

“All clubs are feeling the pinch in a significant way, so the ability to play games in front of crowds is going to be another very significant factor and, of course, none of us know when that is going to be.

“But obviously, the longer you leave it [the end of the season], the more chance you have got.

“That also impacts in terms of major finals because they need to be sold and you can’t start selling them until you know exactly what your capacity is and so on.

“It is frustrating and it is difficult we can’t provide information to fans and people who want to buy tickets, but that is the world we are living in at present.

“It is all moving ahead and there’s a real determination from all Super League clubs to deliver as much as we can of the competition and of the best possible quality as well.”

Of his “seven to 10 days” prediction, Hetherington stressed: “That is just a personal observation.

“If we are talking about an August start and bringing players back for training, we have got time challenges as well.

“In 10 days’ time it will be towards the end of June and you’d like to think by then we will have got ourselves sorted out.”

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