Instead of the usual two phases, starting in September, the 2020/21 programme has been reduced to eight divisions (five men’s, three women’s) in which the teams play each other once – seven games.
The new launch date is 24/25 October, although even that is not guaranteed. If necessary, the reduced programme would be put back to the start of 2021.
League chairman David Andrews has written to clubs explaining the rationale behind the decision. He says: “I appreciate that all this is a huge step for the League – and no doubt a great disappointment to many people. But there are numerous factors that bring us to this point.”
The most obvious, of course, is that no one knows yet when pools will be open, let alone when Swim England, in consultation with the Government, will sanction a resumption of water polo, very much a contact sport.
Other concerns for the League include the need to cancel existing bookings to avoid paying for non-use; the financial impact of the pandemic on club finances; and the likelihood of increased travel/accommodation costs both for clubs and the League’s officials once the season does get under way.
Mr Andrews writes: “As ever, the main priority throughout our discussions has been to act in the best interests of you, the League members, as well as the many officials who make possible the whole operation of our competition and also to ensure the ability of the League to function fully when normality returns.”