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Bourne, Deeping and Spalding may take part in cluster competition with adapted rules

League rugby for Spalding, Bourne and Deepings has been cancelled for the 2020/21 season by the sport’s governing body.

The Rugby Football Union council made the decision following the Government’s announcement of a second lockdown last week.

Spalding and Bourne had been due to play in Midlands 3 East (South) this season with Deepings in Midlands 4 East (South).

Spalding in action against St Neots, just before the first lockdown.
Spalding in action against St Neots, just before the first lockdown.

However, an adapted format of rugby, played in local clusters, is a possibility.

The RFU felt that, even if a return to full contact rugby becomes possible at some point in the future, playing a meaningful competitive league season resulting in promotion and relegation was no longer feasible.

Steve Grainger, RFU rugby development director, said: “We are very keen to see competitive rugby being played again and have been pushing extremely hard to accelerate a return to contact rugby.

“However, we also need to be realistic about the prevalence of Covid-19 cases in society and, given the introduction of further restrictions, we are working with the Government to create alternative solutions.

“Progress has been made following productive conversations with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Office of the Deputy Chief Medical Officer who have shown a willingness to work with the RFU to explore other available options.”

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston added: “I know that the decision from the RFU will be disappointing to players and fans across the country. However, protecting people’s health is paramount.

“The Government is working closely with the RFU on ways in which we can bring the competitive, community game back in some form ahead of a return to full contact as soon as the public health situation allows.”

Grainger continued: “While many people have looked forward to contact rugby returning, we are receiving more and more feedback from clubs and players that adaptations would be acceptable.

“There is an increasing appetite to play an adapted format of rugby, rather than having no fixtures at all.

“We will provide an update to our community clubs as soon as we can.

“We are also looking at models for a replacement competitive programme for men and women based on local clusters, with no obligation on clubs to participate and no consequences for deciding not to do so. Any local cluster competition would not be used to determine league positions.

“This would be an optional competition structure that may include a knock-out competition.”

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