COLUMN: Elstone reveal shows Super League ‘breakaway’ isn’t quite so simple

It’s not uncommon in rugby league for silence to be deafening – but it was especially noticeable on Tuesday night.

Sure, Robert Elstone’s return to the sport as head of Super League had been (correctly) revealed by a number of media outlets in the run-up to Everton’s announcement of his departure from the Premier League club on Tuesday: but there was a startling lack of silence from Super League.

Many, as is often the case, were quick to point the finger at the RFL for failing to promote such a high-profile, positive announcement. Often it’s right to do so – the governing body aren’t perfect, and they probably know that themselves as they go through a state of transition at present.

But this time, they were blameless.

Ever since Super League clubs lobbied for more power, more control and more say in their own destiny over the most recent off-season, the RFL have had less and less of a say in what happens with Super League. We’re now at a point where sports like football (The FA and the Premier League) and rugby union (The RFU and Premiership Rugby) have been at for a while; there’s a group running the elite competition, while the governing body takes care of the rest.

The FA don’t promote Premier League matters. The RFU don’t handle Premiership Rugby press releases. So, truthfully, why should the RFL – who have had their powers of responsibility taken away from them when it comes to Super League – bother to publicise news of Elstone’s arrival as Super League chief?

This, in essence, is the problem Super League faces since it has ‘broken away’ (or whatever buzz-phrase you want to use). While the headline is the 12 clubs forming their own entity to control their own destiny – who publicises what’s going on? What websites, media outlets and such do their press releases appear on? Maybe this breakaway isn’t quite as simple as some first believed it would be.

The RFL have no need whatsoever to promote something that the clubs broke away in order to achieve. It’s not their problem anymore; they can invest their time, energy and monies into the competitions that fall under their umbrella, like Championship, League 1 and the Challenge Cup.

Super League clubs, if they are a proper, separate company, need staff. They need people under the company’s employment who will take care of matters like these – because it was hardly a great look for the competition on Tuesday night that it wasn’t in a position to confirm Elstone’s arrival but the club who had released him could do so.

To the likes of Ian Lenagan and the other powers that be, a few quotes from Elstone and the clubs themselves compacted into a handy press release will hardly be top of their agenda. But news of Elstone returning to the sport should have been promoted and publicised; instead, it barely got a mention anywhere. Aren’t these the appointments and the moments our game should be championing?

And that, when it comes to the root of the problem, is Elstone’s biggest challenge when heading up Super League. His priority – or at least one of them – has to be ensuring that, when there are things to be shared, if Super League truly wishes to be considered a company or entity in its own right, that it doesn’t have to resort to either going cap-in-hand to the RFL, or facing the embarrassing situation of Tuesday night all over again, where the silence was deafening.