Hetherington: The issues raised by Toronto’s withdrawal

LEEDS RHINOS chief executive GARY HETHERINGTON suggests that the Wolfpack’s predicament highlights the shortcomings of the way Super League’s governance is organised.

Firstly, it highlights our lack of an expansion policy.

In truth we have never had one. It’s always been left to individuals like Eric Perez and David Argyle to take their chance and cope the best they can.

Fulham was launched in 1980 amid much scepticism, and in 1984 Sheffield Eagles were voted in but on the day of admission the RFL decided to remove the distribution of central funding from the new club, which made our operations so much more difficult.

Symbolically it was a message that you are on your own.

This lack of policies, planning and support differs markedly from other successful sports, such as AFL in Australia or Major League Soccer.

Secondly, the Wolfpack have inevitably made some mistakes, but they have achieved a great deal, not least healthy support and a cut-through in a great city like Toronto. I hope that isn’t all thrown away. Their players and staff deserve better than to be abandoned.

They have done nothing wrong. The game has a moral responsibility to them, and both the RFL and SLE executives need to manage it.

Thirdly, it throws up issues about the corporate governance of Super League. The separation from the RFL not only created a duplication of services and staff, and increased operating costs for the game, but more significantly it transferred power and decisions to the clubs themselves.

The Super League board includes twelve company directors whose duty is always to act in the best interests of the organisation, but in practice we do what suits our own club at any given time.

The Rugby Union Premiership was recently heavily criticised for their model, which enabled the clubs to act as judge and jury for the Saracens when they infringed the salary cap rules, and we stand accused of doing the same thing.

Fourthly, will there be twelve clubs in Super League for 2021. We’re now in a unique situation and without promotion there is no constitutional process to determine the outcome. This presents a problem but also an opportunity for the game.

Responsibility for selecting the twelfth club should lie jointly with the RFL and Super League executives, but not the clubs.

The appointed group should set clear and transparent criteria for selection. This should include finance, stadium, crowd and commercial potential and player production with the club that offers most value to the Super League competition being the one to be chosen.

This can be done properly and fairly over the next few months.

And the incoming club should receive the same distribution as the other clubs.

In summary our game faces a number of big challenges and we are at a critical point as we restart the competition.

We need our leaders to come together to meet this challenge.

This article first appeared in Rugby League Express on Monday, July 27th. Visit www.totalrl.com/leagueexpress to discover all the ways you can read the publication every week