Barrow Raiders boss Paul Crarey is calling on the RFL to issue a definitive start date ahead of the club’s 2021 season in Betfred League 1.

This comes after the RFL provided an update on plans to return to the pitch. Rugby chiefs said they had begun modelling fixture options for the return of the Betfred Championship, League 1 and the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup in 2021.

An informal survey between clubs has identified the first week of March, or possibly earlier, as a target date to commence the new season, and with further discussions regarding this being held at a forum next month, Crarey needs clarity when planning the club’s training schedule.

He said: “We need a start date nailed down.

“If it is a March start, we will begin our training in December.

“If it is a February start then we will have to start our training in November, and that is not too far away now.

“There has been a lot of speculation, but we really need to have a start date set in stone soon.”

Although crowds will not be allowed to enter stadiums until April, the RFL are liaising with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) with a view of bringing fans in earlier.

Initially, the RFL would like socially distanced and limited crowds to enter stadiums, before building to increased crowds.

Hoping that Raiders fans will get the chance to cheer on their team at the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium, Crarey believes the supporters have an immense effect on the club’s players.

He said: "Having fans in the stadium is a lifeline for clubs who do not have the same money as Super League clubs.

“We are a well supported club. There were around 1,200 fans when we played Coventry Bears in March, and I hope that they can return.

“When the crowd is behind you it can create momentum, it can drive a player to score that try, or to make that tackle, they are the 14th man.

“It will feel strange playing behind closed doors. It will be alien for all of us and we will have to create our own atmosphere.”

In addition, some clubs have spoken with their local MP’s about the return of fans and RFL Chair, Simon Johnson, is determined to see crowds in 2021.

He said: "The recent announcement that spectators would not be permitted to return to sport was a blow to these clubs, as it was to those in the Betfred Super League, as the return of spectators was key to the plans for the resumption of the Betfred Championship and League 1 competitions as soon as possible this winter.

“The RFL remains at the forefront of demonstrating to DCMS and health partners that sports are well prepared for the introduction of socially distanced crowds in well managed outdoor environments, now that indoor arts and cultural events are underway.”