Robert Elstone has insisted that there are no guarantees about a twelfth team in Super League in 2021, leaving open the possibility of the competition staying with eleven teams next year.
Talks are currently ongoing about the future of Toronto Wolfpack, with no decision yet made over whether the Canadian side will come straight back into the top-flight in 2021 after withdrawing from the current campaign.
Elstone was asked last week what might happen if the Wolfpack are not allowed back in Super League, and he said: “It’s too early to say.”
When asked if that means Super League could contain eleven teams, he said: “First of all, we have to make that decision on Toronto on a fair basis and we have to consider what the best outcome for 2021 is.”
Elstone continued: “We’ve got another board meeting to consider the Toronto issue this week. We have to do it objectively, robustly and thoroughly and listen to the views of Super League clubs.
“We have to make sure we do a really comprehensive review of the situation and what it means for 2021. How long that will take, I don’t know. It’s something we have to prioritise and do it quickly, but we have to do it thoroughly and objectively too. It’s on our radar for the next few weeks.”
Elstone did confirm, though, that Toronto’s withdrawal did not have an impact on the money Super League clubs will receive from Sky this season.
“We were smart enough, you could say, to carve out exemptions,” he said.
“The deal we did with Sky was done with a bit of foresight, which we should take credit for in terms of insulating ourselves with Toronto.”
Elstone admitted it was not feasible for a team in the Championship to come into Super League this season and take Toronto’s place.
He said: “The option for 2020 was floated, but there were many issues within that in terms of preparedness, the quality of the team coming in and the compromise to the calendar.
“That meant that it was a relatively easy decision to say it wasn’t appropriate for a club to take Toronto’s place. On 2021, we do need to look in an objective, fair and robust way and evaluate the Wolfpack’s status.”
Elstone admitted he was relieved the Super League season restarted at the weekend, but said simply completing the season does not mean 2020 would be a success.
“It would be very easy coming out of months of hard work to say, ‘Finishing it.’
“We said to Sky, ‘When would you like us to start?’ They felt last weekend was best for their schedules and it presents us with an opportunity. We speak to Sky three times a week.
“But we should aspire for more. I’m hopeful when we get crowds back we can maximise that and we owe our fans something in the sense of their loyalty.
“We’ve been lobbying to get crowds back in earlier and that will be pushed as hard as we can. If we can get 65,000 into Old Trafford on November 28, I’ll shake your hand now.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.