Featherstone Rovers chairman backs Super 8s concept

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Featherstone Rovers chairman Mark Campbell has advocated the current Super 8s format and stressed his belief that the RFL should stick with it for the foreseeable future.

Campbell claims that a decision to change the format would damage the Championship clubs, while continuing with the current structure would have positive long-term implications for the sport.

Now in its third year, the future of the Super 8s is up for discussion, as was agreed originally by the RFL when it was introduced. Since then the league structure has split opinion, and the debate is hotting up about whether it should continue.

Featherstone were one of the driving forces behind the return of promotion and relegation, having been unsuccessful in their attempts to attain Super League status during the licensing era that ran from 2009 to 2014. Since then, Rovers managed to reach the top four of the Championship last year and are hoping to make the Qualifiers again, and earn the right to compete for Super League status once again.

“Surely we cannot go back on this exciting format,” Campbell said. “It would only benefit clubs who believe they belong in Super League, not necessarily the ones who have earned the right to be there through on-field performance. This is sport after all.

“We have not been consulted about the future of the Super 8s yet, and given that we are genuinely challenging for promotion, we would hope to be granted a seat at the table for such discussions.

“We have huge ambitions and will rule out no potential outcome this season or in the years ahead. However, if the opportunity of promotion or financial reward, based on our on-field efforts, becomes part of the sport’s history, then it is difficult to see how we could make a claim for a place in Super League.

“We cannot simply keep installing new systems and then pull them. We have to be consistent and allow the game to adapt, as we are doing here at Featherstone. We have always supported innovation and are right behind the current concept. Looking after clubs who live in comfort street will do and has done the game no good at all.

“Growth will come if players, staff and supporters are able to dream big and attempt to deliver.” Campbell was responding to comments by Wigan Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan, who told League Express last week that the Super 8s is a “fundamental problem” for the game, arguing that attention is taken away from clubs who finish in the top eight due to the Qualifiers. However, Campbell insists that is not a strong enough argument to justify replacing the concept.

“Standards in the Championship and League 1 have undoubtedly increased since the Super 8s format was introduced. There are no longer any easy games outside Super League,” he said. “You just have to look at Dewsbury, who, this season, have lost games to the newly-promoted second-tier clubs.

“From our point of view, and from the point of view of our supporters, the Super 8s concept means every single game, and every single point on offer, counts a great deal. It counts more than ever before, in fact. The concept is delivering and it is absolutely vital we remain consistent on this subject. The Super 8s is crucial for several Super League, Championship and ambitious League 1 clubs.”

Another concern aired by Lenagan was the uncertainty surrounding fixtures following the split after 23 rounds. But Campbell claims that it has not had a negative impact on his own club’s crowds.

“Mr Lenagan’s concerns over not knowing the fixtures after 23 weeks of the season make very little sense,” he said. “We were faced with the issue directly last season, sealing our place in the top four on the final day of the regular season.

“We had less than five days to work things out and took the challenge head on, attracting massive crowds for all three of our home games in the Qualifiers. We had between 6,000-8,000 people turn out for our games against Hull Kingston Rovers, Leigh Centurions and Leeds Rhinos. Who would not want that? To put those numbers into perspective, just over 15,000 people live in Featherstone.

“We have not had attendances anywhere near those in the last 20 years and, of course, from a business point of view, those sorts of games provide financial returns which allow teams like Featherstone to challenge, potentially prosper and, more importantly, grow, ensuring the Super 8s can continue to deliver huge excitement for tuning in and watching our sport.”

This story first appeared in this Monday’s League Express. To ensure you get content like this as soon as it’s released, click here to guarantee the paper is delivered to your smart device EVERY Sunday night!