Swinton Lions will vote against the new league structure proposal, at Friday’s Rugby Football League EGM, despite the fact it that rejection would consign their own club to relegation.
The Lions are currently struggling at 11th place in the table, five points adrift of safety with just three games remaining, yet their Chairman, Andy Mazey says they are willing to sacrifice their Championship status in this way because they do not believe the proposal put forward is in the best interests of the game as a whole.
Some sacrifice, because – if given the green light – the proposed new league structure (already signed off by Super League) would hand the Lions a lifeline. That’s because, under this proposed structure, only one side would be relegated from the Championship in order to expand the division to 14 teams, effectively saving Swinton in their current league position.
However, Mazey says Swinton will not be tempted into accepting the proposals for their own short-term gain, insisting their decision is based on what is best for the sport.
“My view on the tabled proposal is that it’s not good for Championship and League 1,” he said. “There would be a short-term win in it for me, obviously, because if we change the structure we would stay up by default but, in all honesty, you have got to have a wider view. It has got to be good for the whole game and in my opinion, it’s not.”
Mazey’s reluctance to accept the plans in place are due to uncertainty beyond the current television deal.
“There’s no clarity on what happens beyond 2021,” Mazey explained.
“The current TV deal runs until 2021. This proposal, in essence, ringfences the current distribution until that time but beyond then there’s no certainty.
“The fear is, that if we scrap the Qualifiers – the only thing currently bonding Super League to Championship and League 1 – there would be no link between us. And there’s a fear that – come 2021 – Super League would cut adrift and strike their own deal with broadcasters, and we would be left as the poor relations, on our own.”
The Championship and League 1 clubs have therefore countered with a proposal of their own, which features an extra promotion position up for grabs and more certainties over the funding.
“When we sat down together last week we said we wanted to be pro-active, we don’t just want to say no. So, we’ve come forward with a counter-proposal.
“In terms of promotion and relegation they have proposed a straight one up, one down; we have countered with a variable, to facilitate more teams being able to get up by way of a play-off to determine the second spot. I’m sure that will be resisted by Super League but we want a better mechanism for promotion and relegation.
“The `big one’ however, is funding beyond 2021. Having read Adam Pearson’s comments in League Express I think what he said was unfair. He said it was the best deal we’re going to get and we’re being foolish not accepting it.
“But in terms of TV funds there are no guarantees on anything beyond 2021, so basically what they’re saying is `if we get X we might be able to give you something’ but if they don’t we’ll get nothing. You can’t accept that.
“Our counter is that we want to be reasonable; we understand that if their broadcaster income comes down ours will also come down, so our proposal is that if it goes up, ours should go up, and if it goes down, ours go down.”
The Extraordinary General Meeting will take place this Friday.