The future structure of the professional game will go a long way to being decided at two crucial meetings this week, even though they won’t include the Championship clubs.
Instead, the Super League clubs are set for two meetings, on Tuesday and Friday, to discuss the future path for the sport.
The meetings are likely to tackle two individual key issues – one of them the governance and marketing of the sport, which has been strongly criticised in certain quarters.
But it is the other that will most concern Championship outfits, when the top flight clubs discuss the best way to re-introduce promotion and relegation.
The RFL has already officially confirmed that promotion and relegation will return in some format, but which one that remains to be decided.
The controversial “two leagues of twelve into three of eight” remains on the table, and is thought to be favoured by the RFL and a number of Championship clubs.
A more conventional one up, one down could also be discussed, before the Super League clubs decide on their most favoured option.
It will not be fully finalised this week, however – that final ruling will come following an RFL board meeting on January 24, the date that clubs have been told will provide a definite outcome.
For Championship clubs, that decision cannot come quickly enough. There is likely to be much to play for in 2014, and the sooner they know exactly what, the better for all concerned.
If Super League does revert to twelve teams from 2015, and, as has been mooted, Toulouse are re-introduced at the second level, then it is likely that Championship clubs will have to finish in the top nine this year to preserve their current status.
For this week at least though, they will have to sit and wait to discover the outcome of the two Super League meetings.
Halifax Chairman Michael Steele, whose club has publicly backed the two twelves, three eights proposal, has two key hopes for Championship clubs.
“We certainly hope that Super League does go down to 12 clubs, because staying at 14 plainly isn’t going to work,” Steel told Championship Focus.
“And we hope that the financial model allows Super League clubs that are relegated to survive in the Championship, or whatever it will be called. And that it gives the promoted Championship clubs a fighting chance of succeeding in Super League.
“That has always been the key to bringing promotion and relegation back.”
Steele’s second point is especially valid.
For the re-introduction of promotion and relegation to have any chance of working, the financial gap between the top two tiers has to be bridged.
The current disparity in funding would offer Championship clubs little chance of successfully making the step up, and would significantly impact on those dropping down.
Hopefully the Super League clubs will see that when they hold their talks this week.
Meanwhile, Championship clubs are still waiting to hear which night of the week their Premier Sports coverage will fall on in 2014.
The Thursday slot that they have held for the past two seasons has been taken by Sky Sports, who have switched from their own traditional Saturday evening matches.
Championship Focus understands that weekends are not a realistic option for Premier, and that the most likely outcome of talks that are ongoing is to have televised Championship games on a Monday night.
Premier have actually selected the fixtures that they want to screen for the majority of the season, and it will include a healthy number of matches from Championship One.
But those games will not be released until a set night for the weekly coverage is confirmed with the RFL.
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