The RFL today publishes its Rugby League Return to Play Plan for the Community Game, building on the latest advice from Government (DCMS) and Sport England.

The RFL has identified four stages, aligned to the Government’s progress against the five-stage Covid Alert Levels – illustrated on the Guidelines PDF here, which have been distributed across the Community Game today.

The Government has announced today that the UK has moved from Alert Level 4 to 3. The RFL remains at Stage 2 – “Includes virtual activity and small group fitness and skills sessions with non-contact with social distancing measures in place”.

Marc Lovering, the RFL’s Director of Participation and Development, said: “We’ve worked closely with Sport England and other sports to put a framework in place aligning the national guidelines and Alert levels to the return of Community Rugby League, and we hope the information we’re releasing today, after a meeting of the Community Board earlier this week, will help the thousands of players, coaches and volunteers who are so keen for the game to resume.

“We continue to be led by Government guidance and our own Clinical Advisory Group, and progression through the RFL stages will only be confirmed when we are advised it’s safe to do so.

“Since the Alert Level came down from 5 to 4, we’ve been pleased to see the resumption of some Rugby League activity in a community club setting, as per Stage 2 of our Return to Play guidelines.

“Stage 2 involves small group activity evolving into team-based sessions, and that means the Virtual Game Day initiative, building on Skill To Play and Fit To Play, is still significant, in ensuring that clubs not yet ready to return can still encourage their players to remain active and engaged.

“We hope to have more youngsters than ever involved with Virtual Rugby League this weekend, with our first schools competition in Warrington – 15 teams have signed up to a festival organised by the Wolves Foundation, which is set to replace an annual pre-match event. That’s a great example of clubs and Foundations responding positively and imaginatively to the current situation, and we congratulate Warrington for their initiative.

“We are expecting further guidance from DCMS and Sport England, which we hope will allow a move from small group activity to more team-based activity from early July – although still with social distancing.

“Also we shortly expect to receive further information about the use of indoor sports facilities, which is especially important for Wheelchair Rugby League as we aim to get those players back on court ahead of RLWC2021, even if they are initially restricted to fitness and skills activity.

“We will be issuing an update about Physical Disability and Learning Disability Rugby League in the coming days, given the importance of retaining a focus on these areas of the game, and ensuring that those players stay active in such challenging times.

“Stage 3 of our Return to Play guidelines would involve the possible introduction of social variants such as Touch RL, Tag RL and X League, and the partial return of low risk age groups to full contact.

“It is only at Stage 4, corresponding to the Alert Levels 2 into 1, that we could envisage the return of full contact Rugby League, possibly with rule adaptions, before the return of leagues and competitions. That remains some way off – but at least we are heading in the right direction.”