Rugby Football Union reveals a range of different competition models for the new season
Rugby clubs could be handed a flexible start to their new Midlands East campaigns.
The newly-promoted duo of Oakham and Stamford, along with Bourne, Deepings and Stamford College Old Boys, are currently awaiting the dates for when their new seasons will start.
The RFU have announced a range of different competition models for the new term which can be applied at different season start dates as and when it is deemed safe to return to play.
The models allow for any potential interruption in the season as a result of Covid-19 while providing players with a framework for meaningful competitive rugby with greater flexibility to enable games to be played.
Each group has considered player welfare, flexibility in response to Covid-19, adaptable models that prioritise local matches early in the season to reduce travel, support club revenue, and maintain player participation.
The competition models are based on three potential start windows depending on when it becomes safe to return to play.
The models vary according to league size and offer flexibility to manage any potential Covid-19 interruptions with the season able to be extended to the end of May if it helps support delivery of a meaningful competition.
To further support clubs with flexibility, league rugby will be prioritised over cup and county competitions.
To best manage the uncertainties around a start date, leagues will be split into conferences from the start of the season with a 14-team league being cut into two groups of seven teams.
In most cases the conferences will be organised geographically to keep travel down to a minimum in the early part of the season which could also present the opportunity for more revenue generating derbies and support player availability.
The plans would be for teams play home and away in their group - in a 14-team league separated into two groups of seven, teams playing 12 fixtures.
Upon completion of these 12 fixtures, teams play home and away against teams in the other group, meaning teams play a further 14 fixtures (26 fixtures in total).
The league winner will be the team with the best playing record from all league fixtures.
A second option is for teams play home and away in their group - in a 14-team league separated into two groups of seven, teams play 12 fixtures.
Upon completion of these 12 fixtures teams will play home or away against teams in the other group, meaning team play a further seven fixtures (19 fixtures in total).
The league winner will be the team with the best playing record from fixtures played in both groups.
The third and final option will see teams play home and away in their group - in a 14-team league separated into two groups of seven, teams play 12 fixtures.
There will then be a play-off game between the group winners to determine the league winner.
Steve Grainger, the RFU rugby development director, said: “The competition models we’re outlining demonstrate our commitment to having competitive rugby played in clubs and education settings as soon as it is safely possible.
“In addition to the competition framework, we are working on plans with Sport England and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about how we accelerate some form of a return to community rugby.”
Oakham and Stamford’s proposed group for Midlands 2 East (South) (C1) would also include Leicester Forest, Long Buckby, Market Bosworth, and Vipers.
Bourne would be alongside Huntingdon & District, Melton Mowbray, Rushden & Higham, Spalding and Stewart & Lloyds in Midlands 3 East (South) (C1).
The Midlands 4 East (South) (C2) would see Stamford College Old Boys and Deepings take on Aylestone St James, South Leicester, Thorney and Wellingborough.