NCA chairman John Inverdale is confident the National League Cup will proceed, although the Covid-19 tiers mean the start date has been pushed back to February.
Of 48 National League clubs, all bar Guernsey, Rotherham, Rochford Hundred and Bournville have indicated their willingness to support the proposed competition, which will feature regionalised Pools and a Grand Final at Twickenham.
However, Inverdale and the clubs are banking on Tier 3 restrictions being eased in certain areas in order to allow spectators into games and function rooms to open.
Following an NCA executive meeting on Friday night, Inverdale told The Rugby Paper: “There’s a complete willingness to go ahead with the competition. Everybody’s enormously enthused to get back playing, although around 40 per cent of clubs are currently in Tier 3.
“The decision we’ve made is that in order for the competition to have authenticity, it can’t start in dribs and drabs. As much as is humanly possible we want everyone playing on the first weekend so we’re now going to push the start date back to early February.
“All the fixtures are in place, although we’re not going to release them yet, and the offer from the RFU of a final at Twickenham in late May provides a fantastic incentive for everyone. We’re hoping that by February more clubs will be downgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, which would allow spectators at all matches and we can start with a bang rather than a whimper.”
But not everyone is on board and Rotherham team manager Tony Jenkinson explained why his club would not be participating. He told TRP: “With the way the club is structured, if we started paying players and no one’s watching, it would be financial suicide.
“If we’re in Tier 3 and the clubhouse is closed and there’s no income, we could potentially bankrupt the club.
“We’ll be fine in terms of the future and our ambition is still alive, but it makes far more sense for us to take stock now and then look towards next season.”