The Super League rugby league competition has chosen Emerald Headingley Stadium and Totally Wicked Stadium, the homes of Leeds Rhinos and St Helens, as neutral venues for the restart of its 2020 season.
The Super League last month announced that it would resume on August 2 with three games taking place at a single unnamed location. The League has now firmed up these plans by stating that an initial triple header of re-arranged fixtures at Emerald Headingley (pictured), before rounds eight to 22 take place from August 8-9 to November 12-13.
Emerald Headingley will initially play host before Totally Wicked Stadium stages its first games on August 15, all behind closed doors. The League said that given the “exceptional and demanding financial climate”, the opportunity to play in front of home crowds has been “front of mind” in the fixture scheduling. As a result, from Round 14, the schedule gets busier across the final two months of the 2020 season.
The significance of home crowds to clubs and fans also means that dates and venues in the back end of the campaign will be reviewed as the season progresses, in line with government advice and in discussion with broadcast partner, Sky Sports.
The play-offs – comprising four teams – are scheduled for mid/late-November, while the Grand Final, which has yet to have a confirmed venue, will take place at the end of November. Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone said: “It hasn’t been an easy process. We have needed the buy-in of our clubs and support from Sky Sports and we’re delighted all parties have pulled together to allow us to announce our fixtures and provide the focus for the remainder of the 2020 season.
“It’s fantastic that all games in August will be live on Sky Sports. I’m also pleased to confirm that Sky Sports are supporting our efforts to explore other ways to bring as many games as possible into the homes of Super League fans.”
The restart plans comes amid question marks surrounding the Super League’s Canadian club, Toronto Wolfpack. The team is currently in its debut Super League season, but sits bottom of the table and may not be able to finish the campaign due to potential visa worries for its seven overseas players, including star signing Sonny Bill Williams.
The Wolfpack are included in the fixture schedule, but the club confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that it would not host any matches in Toronto for the remainder of the season. In all 11 games were scheduled for the 2020 season in the city.
Wolfpack chairman and CEO, Bob Hunter, said: “Regrettably for the Wolfpack the challenges around travel, international border protocols and the hosting of public events in Toronto have proved too significant for the team to be able to host games at Lamport Stadium this season. This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, and we vow to return to Toronto bigger and better than ever before in 2021.”
In other news, the Rugby Football League (RFL) has today announced that the 2020 Challenge Cup will resume at the sixth round stage in August, with the final to be played on October 17. The 2020 Challenge Cup Final had been scheduled to be played this weekend at Wembley Stadium.
The RFL confirmed in May that the Final would be postponed because of the suspension of all rugby league activity since March. However, with the Super League season resuming on August 2, dates for the remaining rounds of the Cup have been included in the schedule for the rest of 2020.
The Challenge Cup had reached the last 16 stage following the completion of the eight fifth round ties on the last weekend before the suspension of the season in March, and will return on August 22 with a double header at the John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield.
Warrington Wolves, the 2019 Wembley winners, will face local rivals Wigan Warriors, followed by St Helens against Salford Red Devils. The other sixth round games will also be played over the same weekend of August 22-23. Venues for all other fixtures, including the Final, have still to be confirmed.
Mark Foster, the RFL’s chief commercial officer, said: “With increased optimism about the return of crowds to professional sport in the autumn we are still working through all venue options for all remaining rounds, to be able to react to any changes to the government guidance over the coming weeks and months – and should the best option be to host the Final at Wembley Stadium we do have it provisionally booked for Saturday October 17.”
Image: Emerald Headingley Stadium