Toulouse home advantage in play-offs “unfair”, says Featherstone chief

James Gordon

Featherstone chief executive Martin Vickers says Toulouse have twice refused requests to play them in France and that their home advantage in the play-offs is “unfair”.

Toulouse will lift the Championship League Leaders’ Shield after their final regular season game at Newcastle this weekend, which is only the 13th time they have taken to the field all year.

1895 Cup final winners Featherstone will have played twice as many games as Toulouse by the time the play-offs begin, taking in 21 league games, three Challenge Cup fixtures and two in the 1895 Cup.

Vickers said: “The question I have been asked most by our fans in the last couple of weeks is around the location of the finals series, and I share fans concerns about the games being scheduled to be played potentially in France.

“It just seems unfair that a team playing only 12 games in a season avoiding the challenges of week in week out rugby are now given the added advantage of a potential home finals series.”

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Both Toulouse and Featherstone will have home semi-finals on October 2, with the Grand Final the following week to be played in Toulouse, if the French side win that match.

All 11 of their scheduled regular season home games in France were not played, with part-time teams unable to travel due to quarantine restrictions – though Vickers says Featherstone have twice made an approach to re-arrange their trip to the Stade Ernest Wallon.

Vickers added: “The travel conditions in France have allowed British clubs to travel to France for the last six weeks, this in a period when most players have received both their vaccinations, yet an arbitrary date of 1st October which just so happens to be the start of the play-off series has been set for teams to now travel to France.

“It doesn’t seem that long ago for me when at the Toronto Wolfpack that had they been able to play in Super League in 2020 post COVID, were told to play home and away in the UK, yet just 12 months later we are faced with a contradictory approach. This can be very frustrating at times!

All Clubs have been encouraged by the Governing Body to seek rearrangement of postponed games towards the end of the season and there is no reason why a game can’t be played in France at the present time.

“As a Club we have been flatly refused on two occasions by Toulouse to replay our game on a weekend or mid-week which is a great disappointment for the whole game.  

“I am scratching my head as to why this couldn’t have been arranged.”

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Even if Featherstone had been able to travel to Toulouse, a win in France wouldn’t have been enough to displace them at the top of the table on the points percentage format – owing to the deduction handed to Rovers for COVID breaches earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, Batley, Bradford and Halifax have already secured their places to join Toulouse and Featherstone in the Championship play-offs, with the final spot a shoot-out between London and Whitehaven this weekend.

A win for London at York will see them in the top six, but they will be pipped by Whitehaven if the Cumbrians can win away at Bradford and the Broncos slip up on the road.