Women’s sea­son can­cel­la­tion is a ‘huge sad­ness’ for emerg­ing game

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Rugby League By Fiona To­mas

Elite women’s rugby league clubs have been told to pre­pare for lo­cal friendlies this au­tumn fol­low­ing the Rugby Foot­ball League’s de­ci­sion to can­cel its en­tire fe­male sea­son due to the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

The Co­ral Women’s Chal­lenge Cup has also been called off in a ma­jor blow for women’s rugby league which, given its grow­ing pro­file, formed part of the RFL’s sub­mis­sion to the Gov­ern­ment when the sport was granted a £16mil­lion emer­gency loan to help se­cure its long-term fu­ture. Eng­land is due to host the World Cup in 2021, for men’s, women’s and wheel­chair events.

The RFL was hold­ing out to run a con­densed women’s cam­paign, with a start date be­tween late Au­gust and Septem­ber, but that has now been deemed not fea­si­ble.

Marc Lover­ing, par­tic­i­pa­tion and de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor at the RFL, said the can­cel­la­tion was a “huge sad­ness” af­ter a mo­men­tous 2019 sea­son in which Bet­fred ex­tended its spon­sor­ship from the men’s Su­per League to the women’s com­pe­ti­tion. Two new teams, Huddersfie­ld Gi­ants and War­ring­ton Wolves, were also set to join the women’s elite am­a­teur league.

Lover­ing said: “We have taken time to ex­plore ev­ery pos­si­ble op­tion. We have been in close dia­logue with clubs and foun­da­tions through­out the in­ter­rup­tion caused by the Covid-19 sit­u­a­tion.

“The com­plex work needed with Gov­ern­ment and other part­ners to build re­turn-to-play strate­gies in con­tact sports has meant that full­con­tact rugby league, with rule adap­ta­tions, is only likely to re­turn in Oc­to­ber – and then only in the form of lo­cal friendlies with lim­ited travel,” he added. “We are there­fore timed out of de­liv­er­ing these pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tions safely and with in­tegrity.”

De­feated: The RFL’s Marc Lover­ing said hopes of get­ting the women’s sea­son started had run out of time

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