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.