Championship start date confirmed
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 league to determine the team that will earn promotion to the Gallagher Premiership for the 2021/22 season.
The conferences will be determined by standings when the 2019/2020 season ended in March 2020; with Saracens taking the place of Newcastle Falcons and Richmond replacing Leeds Carnegie.
Therefore, the two Conferences will be:
Saracens, Cornish Pirates, Ampthill, Jersey Reds, London Scottish, Hartpury University RFC
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.