THE shocking rise in Covid cases, combined with the latest lockdown measures to combat it, must inevitably make any hopes of getting fans back for the start of Super League in early spring wishful thinking.

And if further, even tougher measures do come in, that may even mean a delay to the programme, scheduled to kick off on the 11 March.

This will present Super League clubs with a huge dilemma, balancing their commitments to the broadcaster on one hand with the expectations paying spectator on the other. That is before we even look at player welfare.

Last year, although Saints season ticket holders saw just two of their allotted home matches, plenty of supporters accepted what a tough predicament the club and game was in as it went into lockdown and then returned behind closed doors.

Getting those same fans to part with cash, in the current climate, will be an even tougher ask until there is a degree more certainty what they will get for their money.

It could not be helped from a sport’s point of view, but the fans missed out a lot last year….not just in getting money’s worth but in experiences. Everybody is yearning to get those terraces and seats filled again.

But what does the game do if there is a more stringent lockdown required or if there another prolonged delay in letting fans back in?

If elite sport carries on in the way it is doing at the moment, the broadcasters will still have their rugby league-shaped slots to fill in early spring.

Could a way out of this be to bring in a behind closed doors televised competition? A regionalised round-robin to guarantee fixtures and culminates in a four-team knock out?

The broadcasters would be satisfied, the players would have a genuine prize to win and the fans would not necessarily be losing Super League games off their season tickets.

Such a comp should not be viewed as a ‘needs-must’ filler – but one that fulfils the same role as the old Lancashire Cup, BBC2 Floodlit or John Player; trophies that were loved by players and fans back in the day.

It is not a perfect solution – to stop the comp adding to the players burden of fixtures the actual Super League programme would have to be adjusted and with it the price of season tickets.

Surely we have to be flexible and have to give thought to any solutions that keep all sides happy.