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Garry Schofield: Give the new structure a chance

Garry Schofield: Give the new structure a chance

by: Garry Schofield, July 30, 2014, 10:25 am

The RFL launched the game’s new professional structure last week, and there is plenty there to get your teeth into.

As we’ve known for a while now, the top two divisions will each have 12 teams, and they will split into three competitions of eight teams later in the season. Now we have some meat on the bones and we can see how things should pan out.

This article originally appeared in this week’s edition of League Express newspaper. Click here to download the digital version to your computer, smartphone or tablet

Firstly, the RFL claim that the main reason for the changes is that we will now have promotion and relegation in a financially sustainable way.

I can’t complain too much about that, because it was just absolutely essential that they re-introduced promotion and relegation. Watching London struggle on in Super League with nothing going for them was painful, and it was unfair to those Championship clubs who were on the outside of the closed shop.

I wasn’t too happy with the decision to reduce Super League from 14 clubs to 12, but it’s one that I can live with. I suppose standards at the bottom of Super League, which were quite impressive between 2006 and 2010, have fallen away in the last few years.

When the RFL talk about financial stability, however, it is a bit of a worry to see the Championship salary cap increased to £1 million next year. That is a huge amount for some of those clubs and it could well lead to a very uneven competition and to some of the clubs spending money they haven’t got and going bust.

Can clubs like Workington, Whitehaven and York afford to spend a million quid a year on players? We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.

The main problem with the Super 8s is that it is a format which is very difficult to understand. Explaining it to non-Rugby League fans, those people who the game has to attract, isn’t going to be easy.

On the other hand, like when play-offs were introduced in 1998, people will pick it up after the first year.

Some will think it is the RFL again making changes for changes’ sake, which has blighted the Super League era, and is a turn off for potential supporters.

However, I have to admit that I am quite excited about it. It breathes life into parts of the professional game that need it and it will cause plenty of excitement.

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The play-offs for the Super League title will be a straightforward top-four with first at home to fourth and second home to third in the semi-finals. That is a massive improvement on the convoluted nonsense that the current play-offs have developed into, with too many teams involved and the ridiculous Clubcall.

Similarly, we will see the return of ‘The Million Pound Game’, which will decide which team takes the last place in the following year’s Super League, and what a masterstroke it is to have that at the home ground of the higher-ranked side rather than at a neutral venue.

It will be spine-tingling to see a game like that played at an atmospheric stadium and it evokes memories of the Wakefield-Castleford relegation shootout of 2006.

Being a bit of a traditionalist, I’m not too happy to see that the top eight from next year will enter the Challenge Cup later on. In the last few years we’ve seen Featherstone and Leigh pushing Wigan and Leeds so close, and it will be a shame to lose games like that from the early rounds of the Cup.

I sincerely hope that the RFL will do all it can to maintain the fine traditions of the Challenge Cup, because nobody can deny that it has played second fiddle to the Super League in modern times. At least under these proposals we will see fewer one-sided matches.

This article originally appeared in this week’s edition of League Express newspaper. Click here to download the digital version to your computer, smartphone or tablet

Things that still need to be finalised appear to be the bonus point and dual registration. I’m a fan of neither.

It would be a huge mistake for the bonus point to be introduced to the Super League, and it would prove to be another unnecessary gimmick. Championship fans, other than those at Workington, seem to dislike it.

And dual-registration is a concept that has cheapened some of the lower-division clubs, like Swinton, who seem to have lost their identity in the last couple of years.

If all professional clubs now are to have a clear pathway to the top, then they need to be able to stand on their own feet and prove that they can cope without charity. I’d like to see this scrapped too.

Garry Schofield

Garry Schofield

The RFL’s Twitter feed was being quite defensive the other day in responding to criticism of the new format. I can see both sides though. It’s easy to find the faults, but at this stage I’m happy to support the new concept and give it a go.

Whatever you think about it, and however your team fits in, what is not in dispute is that there’s plenty in it that will have us on the edge of our seats.

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