CLECKHEATON RUFC chairman Neil Gillan is relieved the club still have cricket and bowls to fall back on, as he admitted it will be a long 10 months.

The Rugby Football Union have announced that the 2020/21 league season has been cancelled below the Premiership and Championship, meaning teams will go from March 2020 until September 2021 without any league rugby.

The majority of clubs have survived these last eight months of the coronavirus pandemic, but there is a long way to go yet.

Gillan admitted: "We respect the decision that's been made but it's massively a worry, these next 10 months.

"It's not just about keeping our first team interested, we have three senior sides here at Cleckheaton and we worry we'll lose some players and not be able to put teams out at a lower level.

"For older players in those senior teams, it's difficult after too long off to maintain your fitness and get back into the game."

Discussing finances, Gillan said: "We're okay for now. We have no debts and we don't owe anyone anything, as we're totally self-owned. It would be easier for us to be mothballed.

"We have talked about getting crowdfunding donations. We don't need to yet, but it is something to consider going forward.

"You only really get one shot at that kind of thing, so we'd need to be sure of it and work out if it was definitely needed.

"We do think next year will be hard, as normally we'd have used our 2020 takings to fund 2021.

"We do have cricket and bowls here in the summer though, so I do feel sorry for those clubs that just have rugby.

"The first wave wasn't too bad as it mainly affected the spring and early summer, when we're not playing much, but there would have been lots of revenue coming in this winter.

"So we're fortunate in that sense that we can have sport here all year round (and had cricket this summer for example)."

There are some other positives to the RFU's announcement too, with Gillan saying: "We're clearly disappointed at the news, but the feeling was that it was inevitable, with us being in lockdown again this close to Christmas.

"In some ways it gives us certainty.

"There was the prospect of the season being extended, and maybe we'd have had to continue into May at least.

"How we'd have gone about doing that, I'm not sure, as players and their families have got things booked for then.

"We are still hoping to play some contact rugby before the end of what would have been this season, as it's just league rugby that's not happening.

"But obviously the main thing at the moment is that everyone stays safe, not just the players, but also our volunteers and our older spectators who come to the games."

All of this could not have been envisaged in March, when Cleckheaton found themselves in second behind York in North One East.

When the season was curtailed, a formula was used to calculate final points totals.

York were promoted to North Premier, as were North One West champions Burnage.

There should have been a play-off between Cleck and Northwich (North One West runners-up) for that final promotion spot, but with no game possible, the latter went up with a better final revised points total.

Gillan lamented: "We were gutted, as we'd have fancied our chances in that play-off.

"Mike Swetman was a player/coach here for two seasons. He came in from Bowdon, then went back to Bowdon for 2019/20.

"They played Northwich twice last year in North One West and he felt we had a chance of doing well against them.

"We had arranged a pre-season game against Northwich in mid-August, where we could have at least got some bragging rights, but we didn't get to play that in the end.

"We should have gone up really, but we had a poor away record and lost at Durham City and West Hartlepool in February, who were both struggling.

"If we'd won both of those, we'd have gone up.

"We went ahead in both of those games, and it was just complacency and a lack of concentration that stopped us from winning them."