Chalmers insists league changes are ‘red herring’ for greater licensing vision

Bradford owner Andrew Chalmers has claimed that the proposed switch to a one-up, one-down league structure by Super League clubs in 2019 is the first step on the top-flight’s supposed desire to return to licensing.

Chalmers has been one of the most vocal figures throughout the entire war of words over the structure, which has now rumbled on for almost a month without any end in sight – but he has now insisted in an exclusive interview to League Express that, in his opinion, the time has now passed for any major changes to be brought in for 2019.

And he also has said talk of changing the structure but keeping a form of promotion and relegation is a “red herring”.

In an explosive outburst, Chalmers said: “This is all a red herring – because where this train stops is licensing. They’re not going to start by saying that though, are they. They’re going to start by shifting the control in power and then work from there.

“I’ve made it abundantly clear that this is a total, absolute power grab from Super League. 

“The structure is a red herring: look past it. There’s a presumption that what we have in place is broken apparently. 

“Well, I’d start from there and ask where the evidence to support that belief is. If you’re going to make a change, then any solution needs to be well-thought and well-reasoned.”

Sources have told League Express that the RFL have indicated any changes must be finalised this month – but Chalmers insists the realistic deadline has already passed.

“We are already past that point,” he said.

“Clubs work in very detailed cycles over things like season ticket launches, and recruitment and retentions. Those things need to happen at a certain point in the year; I think the practical parts of running a club have been lost on these clubs.”

Super League clubs are yet to present a proposal to Championship and League 1 clubs – as well as the RFL Board, who will sign off on any changes for 2019.

And when asked why that was, Chalmers said: “Either they don’t have one, or they don’t know what their proposal looks like.

“But the position is changing so much from them, it smells of a complete lack of planning and co-ordination. I hear various numbers being quoted about clubs being in support of certain things, and talk of clubs being ‘nearly unanimous’ – what? You’re either unanimous, or you’re not.”

Chalmers is centrally involved in the group appointed to represent Championship and League 1 clubs on all matters, and he has again reiterated that while they are united behind the Super 8s, they will listen to a proposal from Super League: if one is floated their way.

All 38 clubs are next scheduled to meet at the RFL’s Counsel meeting on the 25th of this month.

“We are extremely united together,” he said of the two lower tiers.

“We have got a very clear understanding in terms of our mandate and any proposal that may come forward, we will put to our members and have an open discussion about it.

“I’m struggling, however, to see how anything credible can be put forward in the timeframes to mean it’s implemented for next year.

“Once all their (Super League) ducks are in line, maybe we’ll see something. But the challenge is going to be persuading us that change is necessary and what is being offered is better than we have. I think you’ll see in a matter of days, if not weeks, that the critical timelines have been passed. By Counsel, that’ll have passed.”

Super League cannot change funding to the lower leagues until the end of the current broadcast deal, which expires in 2021. 

But League Express also understands the RFL would be keen for funding to remain on a similar ratio thereafter; for example, if the broadcast deal is worth the same, the funding distribution would be the same. If it is ten per cent lower, the distribution to Championship and League 1 would also be ten per cent lower.

On Thursday, TotalRL will be publishing an exclusive, in-depth Q&A with Chalmers which focusses on all aspects of the game and the war between Super League and the lower leagues.