Betfred Championship 2021 play-off structure confirmed as Sheffield Eagles near return

The promotion play-offs in the Betfred Championship this year will feature the top six clubs, the Rugby Football League has announced.
Sheffield EaglesSheffield Eagles
Sheffield Eagles

The top five contested the play-offs in the last full season of the Championship in 2019, when Sheffield Eagles finished seventh, but clubs have agreed to follow the example of Super League, who moved to the top six in 2020 and will stick with that system this year.

It means the top two will have a bye through to the second round where they will play the winners of sudden-death ties involving teams finishing third to sixth.

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The winners of those two semi-finals will then meet in the Million Pound Game to determine promotion to Super League in 2022.

The games will be played over a three-week period from September 25 to October 10 and will be shown live on Sky Sports.

The RFL says clubs will be required to have played 70 per cent of their league fixtures (16 out of 22) to qualify for the play-offs and the bottom two teams will be relegated to League 1 irrespective of how many fixtures they have played.

Mark Aston’s side were fourth-bottom with just one win from their first five games when the season was declared null and void in July because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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In League 1, the team finishing top will earn automatic promotion and will be joined in the Championship for 2022 by the winners of a five-team play-off.

The clubs had already agreed that league positions will be determined by points percentage, as was the case in Super League in 2020, to allow for the possibility of fixtures being cancelled due to Covid-19.

The RFL is still working with Toulouse and the rest of the Championship clubs to resolve the difficulties caused by new restrictions forcing players to quarantine for up to 10 days on their return from playing games in France.

The Championship gets under way over Easter, with all the games played behind closed doors and streamed live on Our League, while League 1 starts on the weekend of May 8-9.

Eagles are set to return to action on the weekend on March 21 against York City Knights in the first round of the 2021 Challenge Cup - one year and one week since they last played.