All of the proposed Super League mergers that never happened with the creation of the summer game in 1996

BACK at the start of 1996, the 1995-96 First Division was entering its last month before Super League would begin.

A switch from the winter to summer with 14 full-time teams making up a top flight was seen as radical at the time whilst now it is considered the norm.

Back then, with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky on the prowl, it was agreed that Super League would be European – hence its full name Super League Europe – so Toulouse Olympique (who later withdrew before actually playing a game) and Paris St Germain were fast-tracked into the new competition.

Ahead of the summer era, it was decided that the top ten teams of the First Division would be in the Super League whilst teams finishing in 11th to 15th would be relegated to the Second Division.

The bottom team of the First Division – 16th – would be relegated to the new Third Division. Meanwhile, in the Second Division the top seven teams would remain while the rest would drop down to make the Third Division.

Even then though, that decision created controversy when Keighley were Second Division winners, only to be denied promotion due to London Broncos being given a Super League place.

Aside from the French and London flair that was set to be added, those at the top also aimed to merge a number of clubs that were within a particular vicinity.

Six mergers in all were touted:

1. Castleford, Wakefield Trinity and Featherstone Rovers would form Calder
2. Hull F.C. and Hull Kingston Rovers would form Humberside
3. Salford and Oldham were to form Manchester
4. Sheffield Eagles and Doncaster were to form South Yorkshire
5. Warrington and Widnes were to form Cheshire
6. Whitehaven, Workington Town, Barrow and Carlisle would form Cumbria

Not one of those mergers actually happened with Huddersfield and Sheffield forming the Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants and then Hull Sharks and Gateshead Thunder merging to become Hull FC around the turn of the century.

Neither of those mergers were too popular with Sheffield and Gateshead forming new clubs which still exist today as Sheffield Eagles and Newcastle Thunder.

But, looking at those proposed mergers, if those six ideas had come off, rugby league would look incredibly different today.