Exclusive: Championship set for later start in 2024 as details of remodelled calendar emerge

Aaron Bower
Dan Murray Halifax Panthers 1895 Cup Championship Alamy

Championship club Halifax Panthers lifted the 1895 Cup at Wembley in 2023 - Alamy

The 2024 Championship season is not expected to begin until mid-March, Love Rugby League has been told, with the early rounds of the Challenge Cup and the newly-remodelled 1895 Cup taking precedence in February and early-March next year as part of an overhauled calendar for clubs outside of Super League.

The Cup final will revert back to a slot earlier in the summer next season, with the final pencilled in at Wembley for Saturday, June 8.

That means that, like in years when the final held a May slot, there will be a need to surge through the early rounds of the competition in the first few months of the year – and the Championship season in particular will be impacted.

Unlike recent years, when the season in the second-tier has started almost identically at the same time as Super League, the Championship will have a much later start in 2024.

The Championship fixture list will be revealed on December 3 but Love Rugby League understands that a date around Sunday, March 17 is likely to be the opening weekend of the new season: almost six weeks later than this year, when the opening round of fixtures took place on the weekend of February 4-5.

Accommodating a new-look 1895 Cup

There is also a need to accommodate a new-look version of the 1895 Cup, too.

That competition will be overhauled in 2024 following discussions between Championship and League 1 clubs about its validity.

Instead of a straight knockout competition, a group stage format will be introduced, with teams being drawn into groups of three.

Those seven groups will be made up of 13 Championship clubs – excluding Toulouse – and eight League One clubs, with Cornwall not included after they were asked to step back from participating.

Groups will be seeded and regionalised, with League 1 clubs given home advantage whenever they face a Championship side.

And those group stage fixtures will be put into the early part of the season in February and March too, alongside the early rounds of the Challenge Cup.

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