Calls grow for Super League to return to the fold

Calls for Super League to realign with the RFL are growing, as a dramatic U-turn looks increasingly likely.

Senior officials at several clubs, including St Helens’ Eamonn McManus (pictured) and Hull KR’s Neil Hudgell, have suggested the sport is not in a position to fund two executive bodies, despite Super League making the decision to split two years ago.

Though the financial climate has been cited as the main reason for the decision to return under one banner, League Express understands a number of clubs have had long-standing concerns about the running of the competition and the operational costs that have come with becoming a separate entity.

As it stands, there have been no official discussions on the matter, but it’s believed there has been a number of informal discussions among several clubs regarding a potential U-turn back to the RFL, and more formal discussions are set to take place in the coming weeks.

If clubs officially pushed for the move, they would need to receive a majority in favour to push it through.

The call to realign is not unanimous; Wigan and Warrington are understood to still be in support of Super League chief executive Robert Elstone.

Super League clubs voted to split from the RFL so they would have more control of their own affairs, including negotiations of the next broadcast deal.

It caused a bitter civil war across the sport, with Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington, the sole Super League opponent of the split, engaging in a war of words with several of his top-flight peers, although since the decision was made he has refused to comment further.

Within months of clubs voting to split from the RFL, former chief executive Nigel Wood announced he would step down, and a year later, Chairman Brian Barwick also departed.

At the time, Super League clubs had grown frustrated at what they perceived to be a lack of transparency, a lack of marketing and a limited say in key decisions.

Should they realign, the clubs are keen to ensure they return with a stronger influence than they did previously.

New chief executive Ralph Rimmer has received strong praise from several leading officials in recent weeks, and the terms of realignment would be negotiated with him.

There have been murmurings of discontent across a number of clubs for several months and the economic impact of the recent lockdown has heightened the noise being made to bring an end to the Super League executive body.

Clubs have all paid to employ Super League staff, office space in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, events and much more, with the level of expenditure biting into the clubs’ income.