Rugby League: Rochdale Hornets will make League 1 return in May 2021

Date published: 13 February 2021

The start of Betfred League 1 has been scheduled for the weekend of 8-9 May 2021.

It was announced in January that Rochdale Hornets’ start to the season would be delayed until later in the year due to the current public health situation and the likely implications on the return of fans to elite sport.

League 1 clubs agreed with the Rugby Football League (RFL) that delaying the start of the season would be a sensible step given the current public health situation, and a desire to minimise the number of fixtures played behind closed doors before the return of fans to grounds.

Clubs have already agreed that games played behind closed doors will be streamed live on the RFL's Our League platforms on a pay per view basis, allowing supporters to watch fixtures even if they cannot attend in person – with home season ticket holders given free access to the live stream packages for their club’s league games.

Details of promotion and relegation mechanisms between the divisions will be discussed and finalised at a meeting of clubs early next month – ahead of publication of fixtures for Betfred Championship and League 1.

This later start date for League 1 will still allow each team to play the other nine twice in an 18-round season before a Play-Off series.

Although they are due to make a return to league games in May, Rochdale Hornets have confirmed they are 'deeply disappointed' not to be competing in the Challenge Cup this year - the club applied to play in the cup's revised format but was not selected to take part. 

A representative for the club said: “In a meeting with the Championship and League 1 clubs in January, the RFL Executive recommended that no League 1 clubs should take part in the Challenge Cup due to a number of circumstances created by the pandemic.

“The delayed season start meant that Challenge Cup fixtures would need to be played earlier than the proposed May 2021 restart for League 1. However, the RFL Executive also invited League 1 to express an interest in entering the Challenge Cup as there were three spaces available in the formatting of the competition.

“Rochdale Hornets entered alongside six other clubs.

“Following the meeting, the RFL wrote to clubs informing us that seven League One clubs had entered, which was too many and asked us to reconsider. The RFL proposed a preliminary round which could only accommodate six clubs and not the seven that entered. In addition, the proposal outlined that the preliminary round would be unfunded, and clubs would not receive an appearance fee or any prize money if they exited the competition. 

“We were given 24 hours to consider this proposal and based on this new information, Rochdale Hornets confirmed our entry on the basis that there was no preliminary. We were subsequently informed that we had not been selected as one of the three clubs to play in the Challenge Cup.

“We are deeply disappointed at not being selected to play in the prestigious Challenge Cup competition. Rochdale Hornets will write to the RFL Executive seeking clarity on the Challenge Cup situation alongside other competition related matters.”

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