OPINION: Relegation doesn’t need to be this tough

Hull Kingston Rovers are all asking the same question – what next?

Relegation to the Kingstone Press Championship leaves Rovers players facing the unknown, with all contracts now having to be renegotiated as the club prepares for life in the second tier.

In the build-up to the Million Pound Game, the focus was predominantly on the ethical issues surrounding the concept. Many players, like Ben Cockayne, labelled the match as a ‘disgrace’, and he wasn’t the only one.

There is an apparent welfare issue surrounding the Million Pound Game.

It is almost unthinkable for so many livelihoods to be on the line at the hands of the concept. However, nobody can deny that the drama and exposure it brings to the sport is beneficial.

I bumped into a high-profile Super League star last week, and naturally, the first topic of conversation was the Million Pound Game. Like many other players, the guy in question felt the enormity surrounding the game was too much, to the point that he knew players involved were unable to sleep in the days leading up to it.

His issue was not with promotion and relegation, in fact, he was of the belief that it was imperative for the sport, but he ridiculed the fact that so many people would lose their jobs.

The reality is that sport owes nobody a living. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded. But at the same time, there should also be plans in place to protect people.

That was a sentiment shared by the player in question. But he also had a solution.

He was of the belief that all players should negotiate two contracts when they join a club, regardless of if you play for Wigan, Warrington, Salford or Hull KR. One contract is on the basis the club is in Super League, the other for if the club gets relegated.

Beyond that, and perhaps I’m being short-sighted here, but would it be unreasonable for clubs to implement a relegation wage reduction clause into all contracts?

Perhaps it’s a lot more complex than that, but it astounds me that both clubs and players aren’t forward-thinking enough to consider the possibility of relegation. The RFL has been criticised for putting so much on the line in one game, but they can’t be held accountable for the way clubs choose to operate.

That isn’t a swipe at Hull Kingston Rovers and their players, they are the unfortunate ones who find themselves in an unenviable position, but it appears that clubs haven’t properly considered the consequences of going down when every club should all have started planning for this from the minute the Super 8s concept was announced.

Of course, there would still be issues if such a clause was in place. For certain players, they would then be committed to a contract that would see them earn a lot less money than they could at another Super League club. However, it would allow clubs to start preparing for life in the Championship straight away by protecting their most valuable assets, and although there is still a loss of earnings for the players to deal with, at least they have a secure future and can plan their lives accordingly.

If any player still doesn’t feel that they’re being protected enough in those circumstances, they haven’t considered the trials and tribulations of professional sport.

The return of promotion and relegation seems to have provided a culture shock that clubs are still coming to terms with, however, Hull KR’s relegation might trigger a different approach.

Rovers have almost taken one for the Super League team, but their circumstances will inject fear into their former top-tier counterparts.