This is an extended version of an article first published in League Express.
Andrew Henderson believes changes to the current league structure need to happen to reduce the risk of clubs finding themselves in financial trouble and help the game grow.
The London Broncos head coach claims the gulf in central distribution handed out to clubs based on their league position from the bottom eight in Championship to Super League is too substantial and puts the development of clubs both in the Championship and Super League at risk.
Clubs participating in Super League receive up to £1.825 million in funding, while a Championship club that wins the Championship Shield will receive around £300,000.
Last year, the Broncos finished sixth in the Qualifiers and as a result, they will receive around £700,000 this season, but they could viably miss out on the top four altogether and see their funding slashed by more than a half should they fail to retain their position in the top four.
Henderson believes that the scale of funding and uncertainty doesn’t help to plan for the long term and leaves clubs at a risk of financial problems in the long run.
“The facts are, a bottom four Super League club will lose over a £1 million if they go down as well as gate receipts, merchandise and potential sponsorship which will impact greatly on that club.
“A lot of its current infrastructure could be destroyed and cease to exist if a wealthy backer isn’t there.
“A top four Championship club could earn anywhere from £450,000 to £1.825 million depending on where they finish in the middle 8s which makes it difficult to budget, plan and recruit accordingly.
“Also a Championship club who made the top four the previous season like we did and earn a decent amount could stand to lose as much as £500,000 in funding for not making the top four which again could see infrastructure built up take a backwards step. This is why I think the whole structure needs looking at.”
Henderson believes the game can look at a number of options that could help the game.
“For the game to truly have a chance it has to go one of two ways. It either goes back to franchising, where you have a selected number of Super League clubs and that’s it. That way as a Super League club you know what you’re getting each year distribution money wise and the club can plan accordingly.
“If you are a Championship club then everyone in that division gets the same distribution money agreed for that division and the same will apply to League 1. That way everyone knows where they stand, what they get and can plan accordingly. If in the future there are any clubs with genuine ambition outside Super League that have managed to build their infrastructure then they could be considered to join the Super League.
“The other way is to have promotion and relegation, whoever wins the Championship goes up and whoever comes bottom of Super League goes down. But there must be criteria met to gain entry to Super League. If you want a jeopardy game like today’s ‘Million Pound Game’ then the runner-up of the Championship plays the second bottom of the Super League.”
Henderson continued: “However, for this to work the gap of distribution money needs to be bridged between Super League clubs and Championship clubs.
“This way if a club gets relegated from Super League they will take a small hit but should be in a position to maintain a lot of their infrastructure. They will probably just lose a couple of higher paid profile players. If a club was to be promoted from the Championship then they would likely be full time and have the infrastructure in place to compete in Super League.
“If the Championship club that won the division didn’t meet the criteria to go up to Super League then they would receive the £1.3M that the Super League club that should have been relegated would have got and instead that Super League club would receive £850,000.
“Hopefully the Championship club could then use that extra money to invest in helping the club do what it needs to do to get it to Super League the next time.”