Sheffield Eagles withdraw from Challenge Cup and Autumn competition
Sheffield Eagles have withdrawn from the Coral Challenge Cup due to player welfare concerns.
Eagles have elected not to contest their cup clash with Hull FC and have also pulled out of the Autumn competition for Betfred Championship and League 1 teams, proposed by the Rugby Football League (RFL).
A statement released by the club said: "The club shares the bitter disappointment that will no doubt be felt by our supporters, partners, and sponsors in that we will not see the Eagles in action again in 2020
"These steps have been taken to help safeguard our long-term future.
"The RFL’s decision to declare the 2020 Betfred Championship null and void we believe was the right one. Our governing body consulted with clubs rigorously over the past few months in what has been an ever-changing landscape.
"There was no decision that could have been made that would have satisfied all clubs and understand the frustration expressed by some but the work the RFL carried out to try and return was thorough with the decision reflecting feedback from clubs across both divisions.
"Whilst the proposed Autumn competition would allow spectators to return to matches, the financial burden placed on the club to do so would have been severe, including but not limited to Covid-19 testing, additional training and match day costs and removing our 22 players and 2 staff from the government’s furlough scheme.
"Costs would have far outweighed any income generated and our utmost importance is the welfare of our players which we felt could have been compromised should we have competed in either competition.
"Despite our thanks going to the RFL for their continued hard work we are disappointed in their decision not to further support those non-Super League clubs who remain in the Coral Challenge Cup.
"Player welfare was the overriding factor in exiting this competition. Super League sides will have played three rounds before the next stage of the Cup was due to take place compared to over five months since our last competitive fixture. It was felt it wasn't safe to compete, and to do so would risk serious injury to our players.
"As a club we proposed that the ‘prize money’ for the losing sides exiting the competition in the next round, the sixth round, (£7,500) and the Quarter Finals (£15,000) should have been split equally.
"This would have resulted in the losing clubs in both the sixth and the Quarter Finals receiving £11,250 each, a significant increase for our club.
"The tie would have been the club’s first home match against a Super League side since 2015 and would have generated revenue significantly larger than the above figure but our proposal was declined.
"We would like to place on record our thanks to our players and backroom staff. They have continued to maintain their fitness since the season was suspended and their resolve during the past few months has been excellent.
"They now deserve a well-earned break before we welcome them back to pre-season training in November.
"Thanks also must quite rightly go to our 2020 supporters; our members, partners, and sponsors. Your steadfast and unequivocal support is inspiring and without which we simply would not be here today.
"Over the coming days we will look to propose options in relation to reimbursements for 2020 packages; membership card holders (season tickets), player sponsors and other partners.
"We fully appreciate times are difficult for many at the moment but where possible to do so, we ask for those that are able to, to not request a refund and look at alternative options to help safeguard the club's immediate future.
"Attentions now turn to 2021 and an exciting year for the sport, particularly for those towns and cities hosting the Rugby League World Cup.
"The 2021 season will likely begin in early February once again and once we have more details on this and developments at the Olympic Legacy Park we will promptly share."