THE Rugby Football League has started modelling fixture options for 2021, with an informal survey of Betfred Championship and League One sides revealing early March to be a possible target date.

Those competitions being examined by the RFL are the Championship, League One and the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup.

Further discussions are set to be held at a Championship and League One forum next month.

Although Government advice currently indicates that crowds will not be permitted until April, there is a shared desire to return well before that – and that all options should be kept open for the resumption of competitions as soon as possible.

York City Knights have been out of competitive action since March. In July, the Championship season was cancelled and the Knights withdrew - along with every other non-Super League side - from the Coral Challenge Cup.

The RFL is working with clubs by running ‘webinars’ - internet-based seminars - for key individuals such as ‘Covid officers’ and coaches as teams look to return to training and playing matches in accordance with Government guidance and RFL protocols.

Also under discussion is a roadmap for an earlier return to first socially distanced and limited crowds, building towards increased crowds, about which the RFL is liaising with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sports, as well as other sports. Individual clubs are also having similar dialogue with their local MPs and local authorities, say the RFL.

Simon Johnson, the RFL chair, said: “The recent announcement that spectators would not be permitted to return to sport was a blow to these clubs.

“However, the mood among clubs is that they must continue working towards a return as soon as possible. The players and coaches are desperate to get back.

“At the moment, we are led to believe crowds will not return until April. But as we have seen, these things can change.

“It is difficult to come up with firm fixture plans given that ongoing uncertainty, but we want to give our clubs and supporters an idea of what might be possible in 2021.”