On Sunday, the schedules of both the second and third-tier leagues of the Rugby Football League (RFL) were released as seen on the RFL’s Twitter page. Both the Betfred Championship and the Betfred League 1 canceled their 2020 season because of COVID-19.
Betfred Championship/League 1 schedules released
🙌 Your @Betfred League 1 fixtures are here too!
🤩 Some crackers to look forward to… pic.twitter.com/5E5bJ7YQBa
— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) February 14, 2021
2021 Betfred Championship
The Betfred Championship games will start on April 2-5 according to rugby-league. The season will have 22 rounds of fixtures running until September 19th. Each team will face nine of the championship teams twice and the other four championship teams once. There were lots of changes since the Championship Grand Final between the Featherstone Rovers and the Toronto Wolfpack in 2019.
The Leigh Centurions were promoted to Super League from the Championship, because of the Wolfpack being kicked out of Super League. The Newcastle Thunder was promoted from Betfred League 1 to the Betfred Championship. There is also a new stadium for the York City Knights called York Community Stadium (also known as LNER Community Stadium for sponsorship purposes), and Halifax RLFC was renamed the Halifax Panthers.
Six games will take place on April 2nd according to the rugby-league. There are three games to look at. The newly renamed Panthers will take on the London Broncos at The Shay in Halifax. The Broncos were relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2019 Super League Season. Other games include the York City Knights vs. Toulouse Olympique XIII and the Newcastle Thunder vs. the Widnes Vikings.
The Knights made some big signings and will play their first competitive game in their new 8,000 capacity stadium at LNER Community Stadium against Olympique. When the 2020 Championship season was suspended, Toulouse sat in first place with five wins in five games.
There is also the ambitious Thunder, who wants to be Super League champions by 2030. It will be a great contest as Widnes was in Super League as recently as 2018.
🏆 | Betfred Championship Round 1️⃣
It’s #PanthersVsBroncos at The Shay Stadium.
— Halifax Panthers 🐾 (@HalifaxPanthers) February 15, 2021
As seen above, the Panthers will face the Widnes Vikings at Kingston Park in Newcastle. It will be a great contest as Widnes was in Super League in 2018.
2021 Betfred League 1
Unlike the Championship, there were no games played in the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, there is the promotion of Newcastle to the Championship from League 1. Also, the Ottawa Aces XIII deferred their participation in League 1 from 2021 to 2022. As a result, League 1 will have 10 teams in the competition. One of the two non-English sides in the competition is the West Wales Raiders RL.
According to a Correspondent of Love Rugby League, the Raiders have signed former Wales and British Lions fly-half Gavin Henson and ex-England international Rangi Chase (see main photo). They will face the Rochdale Hornets in Rochdale at Spotland Stadium (also known as Crown Oil Arena for sponsorship reasons) on May 9th according to rugby-league.
However, the first game of the season will involve another Welsh team on May 8th. The London Skolars will play at home at New River Stadium, where they will face the North Wales Crusaders.
— North Wales Crusaders (@NWCrusaders) February 14, 2021
It will be the opposite on September 12th as the Skolars will play at Queens Way Stadium in Wrexham, Wales seen in the North Wales Crusaders 2021 schedule tweet above. According to rugby-league, League 1 will have a total of 18 rounds of fixtures. The season will end on the weekend of September 12th.
Overview of Betfred Championship/League 1
According to rugby-league, the league table will be determined by a points percentage, like the Betfred Super League season last year. This is happening because of the real possibility of players testing positive to COVID-19. Postponements will be permitted if a team loses seven or more players because of COVID-19 reasons.
Of course, the RFL will try to rearrange the game on a free date, but if not possible, the fixture will be canceled. The Golden Point Extra Time has also been scrapped for the 2021 season if teams are tied after 80 minutes of play. This is because of concern expressed at the meeting of the welfare of the players not playing for over a year (when the games take place) and the majority of whom are part-time. The plan is for the Golden Point Extra Time rule to come back in the 2022 season.
While fans are understandably excited to see the rugby league again, it is important to be prepared for the worst. This means a season being forced to cancel because of COVID-19. This was seen in the NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League), where the remainder of the season and the playoffs were canceled because of COVID-19 according to Sarah Dewberry of The Denver Channel.
Regardless, rugby league fans in the northern hemisphere should be excited to see rugby league again played in their own cities. Unlike Super League, the Championship season and League 1 were cut short and canceled because of COVID-19. While the prospect of that is still an unwanted possibility, the health of fan’s appetite for competition means that there is a thirst league in the United Kingdom.
Knowing this, all 14 teams in the Championship and 10 sides in League 1 are sure to be well supported in 2021.
2021 Betfred Championship – Round One: Friday April 2
2021 Betfred League 1 – Round One: Saturday May 8
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images