KEIGHLEY Cougars are set to begin their League One season in mid-March, while the 1895 Cup this season is only set to have semi-finals and a final.

The latter is because the 1895 format has been rejigged for 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning those semis and final will be between the four Championship and League One clubs who make it to the last 16 of the Challenge Cup.

In a statement, the RFL said: "We can confirm the preferred structure of the 2021 season for the Championship and League One, and also a new format for the 1895 Cup.

"The clubs held a virtual meeting last Friday, and while agreeing on the need to maintain flexibility given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, all recognised the importance of providing players and supporters with a clear plan.

"The intention is for the season to begin with the return of the Championship on the weekend of February 27-28 – meaning a first fixture in more than 11 months for 14 clubs, including Newcastle Thunder, who will take the place vacated by Leigh’s elevation to Super League.

"Clubs have already agreed that games played behind closed doors will be streamed live on the RFL’s Our League platforms (app & website) on a pay per view basis.

"This allows supporters to watch fixtures even if they cannot attend in person – with home season ticket holders given free access to the live stream packages for their club’s league games.

"The opening Championship round will be followed by the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup on the first two weekends of March. The draw for those rounds will be in the week commencing January 4.

"The 10 clubs from League One will kick off their campaigns in the First Round, joined by four Championship clubs (Newcastle Thunder, Oldham, Whitehaven and Dewsbury Rams).

"This will produce seven winners, who will join the other nine English Championship clubs in the Second Round the following week.

"That will produce eight winners, who will contest four Third Round ties two weeks later to join the 12 Betfred Super League clubs in the last 16 in April.

"Those four teams will also qualify for the semi finals of the 1895 Cup, the competition introduced for non-Super League clubs in 2019 to provide a second and more realistic opportunity of playing on Challenge Cup Final day at Wembley.

"In 2021, the 1895 Cup semi finals are again scheduled to be played on the same weekend as the Challenge Cup semi finals in June, with the Final at Wembley on Saturday, July 17.

"The late February start will allow a 26-round campaign in the Betfred Championship, meaning each of the 14 clubs will be scheduled to play the other 13 home and away - leading to a Play-Off for the top six teams, and the £1M Game in October.

"Full details of the league campaign will be determined early in the New Year, when a decision will also be made about whether it is practical to hold the Championship Summer Bash in 2021.

"League One will be an 18-round competition, with each of the 10 clubs playing the other nine home and away.

"Details of the Betfred League One Play-Offs, and of promotion and relegation between the two competitions, will be confirmed in the New Year.

"It has also been agreed that the league table in each competition will be determined on a points percentage system, as with Super League in 2020, in recognition of the likelihood of Covid-19 remaining a factor.

"Again, full details of this will be finalised in the New Year, along with the testing procedures for clubs.

"Championship and League One fixtures are scheduled to be announced in mid-January."