New Super League chief executive Robert Elstone has reiterated his belief that the supposed standalone dissenting voice in Super League – reigning champions Leeds – can back the sea change planned by the competition’s hierarchy moving forward.
In a seismic day for the sport which resulted in apparent confirmation of the league structure changing as well as a host of other issues, the announcement that the Super 8s was being scrapped was met with a furious statement from Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington.
He declared the press conference unveiling Elstone as an “absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game.”
Before that, however, Elstone addressed Leeds’ reluctance to reportedly back the key decisions in Super League – after Ian Lenagan claimed that there was a consistent 11-1 voting process in the competition’s meetings, and Leeds were the club in the minority.
Elstone admitted the competition needs Leeds to move with them – and insisted he believes they will back the supposed new era for Super League.
“I would first of all say that they’re a terrific rugby league club,” Elstone said of Leeds.
“I’ve the utmost respect for Gary and what he’s achieved at Leeds. I know Gary really well from all sorts of different backgrounds; I’ve already been to see him and we’ve had some positive discussions.
“Like all of us, we think the game has to grow and change to stand a chance, and Gary’s view is really about how we do that and that’s the difference. I would hope that by working with me and seeing we’re collaborative, we do carry out our responsibilities to the wider game and Gary will come with us.
“Undoubtedly, we need Leeds with us and I’m confident we’ll get that. In the Premier League, Man United were always an outlier in terms of commercial development – this is different but over time, you have to bring them with you.”
Elstone also said that, from the outside looking in, rugby league craves a format which is far more simplistic than the convoluted Super 8s structure.
“We look at the format as the panacea for the game and we have to realise the solution is within the clubs and the way in which we grow the game,” he said.
“The format is important – but simplicity and understanding of it is essential.”