THIS past weekend was supposed to be the start of the new season for Bradford's rugby union clubs. However, with the pandemic still effecting the sport, many believe it will be hard to see any rugby being played at all in the final months of the year.

Back in July, the Rugby Football Union issued a fixture list, which started on September 5, that included three potential dates for their 2020/21 season.

If the season can kick off by October 10 (window one), clubs will play teams home and away, in a localised group, before playing those further afield in their division, in the other group, home and away.

Then there was November 28 (window two) where the first part remains the same, but clubs would only play those more distant sides once.

If the season gets underway after that (window three), clubs would only play local home and away teams in their league.

All three systems would provide a league winner (the first two via best overall record and the latter through a play-off between the winners of the two groups).

Window one looks virtually impossible to fulfill now though due to the progress that has been made on the RFU's 'Return to Rugby Road Map'.

Despite, a step up from Stage C to Stage D on Tuesday, full contact competitive matches can only take place once Step F is reached.

Non-contact friendlies can now be hosted. However, that news has been met with mixed reactions.

One club who likes the idea is Cleckheaton. Chairman Neil Gillan can see different variations of the game working, but he fails to hide his disappointment at the fact his team's opening fixture couldn't go ahead.

He said: "A game of touch and pass has had mixed views. Will people come watch it? Is it just a mess about?

"My view is when there is nothing else on, at least it will be something. I still think people will come down for that social opportunity.

"Can we have one game aimed at your back row, who are your touch and pass geniuses, and then one that is aimed at your front five who like it in the mud when it is about strength. We want to engage all of our players.

"We would have played our rivals Old Brodleians for the first time in the league for a while.

"That would have really kickstarted the season but we were always resigned when they issued the fixtures that we wouldn’t start on time.

"Window two, which is around the November start, is still possible. It depends what happens with the winter. We are hopeful rather than optimistic about November."

As for fellow North One East side Bradford & Bingley, senior rugby chairman Chris Hemsley wished the progress made on the road map was faster.

He also brings up an interesting point that must be considered when talking about a quick return.

Hemsley said: "We all hope it will be a rapid transformation from where we are now rather than how we began in March. There’s a great direction from the RFU and a lot of planning has been done.

"We are now looking at November. I am fearful because of the university situation.

"Now, the universities are going back, I am afraid for the areas that the universities are in. A lot of them will be coming to rugby clubs.

"I think we might be looking at a slight increase. I think the RFU will make a sensible decision on how that develops."

Yorkshire One team Bradford Salem have not even opened their clubhouse since the restrictions on pubs and restaurants were lifted.

Chairman Neil Klenk feels the financial impact on clubs will be tough to take, especially if rugby does not get going soon.

He added: "Clubs are going to suffer financially with the lack of revenue and the added elements of social distancing.

"In rugby, you get busy periods in the bar after games. Clubs can't really adhere to that, that’s why we are not opening now.

"If there's still social distancing you have these rushes for games, it is going to be difficult.

"We have had an injection of £20,000 (from loans and grants). Our outgoings are much reduced, but we still have overheads like the rent for our facilities.

"We are getting by but we are anxious to generate some revenue.

"At the moment we are certainly keeping our head above water, but we wouldn’t want it to drag on too far.

"All our maintenance has been carried out as if our season was going to start. That is an overhead that you can't avoid. It is going to be a drain of resources until we get something from the other side."