Keighley Cougars have been told they should be able to return well before Easter next year, even if it is without crowds.

The RFL, and Betfred Championship and League One clubs met virtually today and debated a number of possible fixture schedules for 2021 – all of which involve some matches in March.

It is likely the resumption will start with the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, possibly on a group basis in the early stages to allow the clubs to guarantee more home fixtures – and provide the realistic prospect of reaching a Wembley final next July.

The Easter weekend from April 2-5 is set to see the scheduling of derby matches fans have missed so much in 2020.

The clubs also agreed on the importance of working collectively to ensure that they are ready to host fixtures in 2021, if necessary behind closed doors, but crucially to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for spectators when crowds are permitted again.

Options around streaming matches for season ticket holders on the Our League app and the introduction of games being available on a pay-per-view basis will also be pursued.

The RFL have said they will continue working on detailed competition structures and fixture schedules, which will be shared with clubs this month.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “The Betfred Championship and League One clubs are eager to get back out on to the field after such a long and frustrating period of enforced inactivity.

“Today’s meeting was an opportunity for them to consider a number of possible fixture schedules for 2021 drawn up by the RFL, as well as to consider the practical factors that will almost certainly remain.

“The timing of the Easter weekend at the start of April, when we all fervently hope and expect crowds to be permitted back at our grounds, provides something for us all to anticipate with relish.

“There has also been support for the continuation of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup even in a shortened season, which will ensure that two clubs from outside the Betfred Super League reach Wembley in 2021.”