The RFL has advised clubs in the Championship and League 1 to pause their pre-season training programmes for the next two weeks, in response to the latest coronavirus lockdown.
The announcement by the Government on Monday night had already put paid to the resumption of community rugby league, at youth and open age levels.
It means that only Super League clubs are currently permitted to undertake rugby league activity, due to their status as a competition of “elite sport”, which remains exempt from restrictions as long as appropriate COVID-19 guidelines are followed.
While the Championship and League 1 would also be permitted to carry on, having also been classed as “elite sport”, the RFL have made the decision to insist on a pause, citing the current public health situation, the rapid spread of the virus and following discussions with their clinical advisory group.
A statement said: “The RFL will continue to work closely with Betfred Super League clubs to ensure the protocols around their pre-season training programmes evolve to reflect the current landscape and understanding of the disease.
“The RFL will be contacting Community Clubs and whilst recognising that the priority remains the public health emergency, will continue to stress to Government, working with other sports, the importance of team sports in terms of the nation’s mental and physical fitness, and the importance of Community Clubs in terms of social cohesion – and will work towards a return of training then competitions as soon as possible this spring.”
As a result, the release of fixture lists – planned for the middle of January – will be delayed, as will the draws for the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup.
Plans for the Championship season to commence at the end of February were announced recently, while Super League has pencilled in a start date of March 11.
Academy and Scholarship programmes will also be suspended, and Women’s Super League clubs will also be advised to pause their pre-season training programmes – although it is hoped the England Women and Wheelchair squads will continue with their training camps in January and February as previously scheduled.