On Friday the RFL’s independent Board of Directors ratified the proposal for the 12-team Super League and Championship competitions merging into three groups of eight towards the end of the season from 2015.
Despite our reservations that the whole scheme hasn’t been properly thought through, we are now all going to have to accept that is how it is going to be and try and make it a success.
The rubber-stamping of course means that two teams will at the end of this season be relegated from Super League and five more will be relegated from the Championship, with one team apparently being promoted from Championship One.
We know from experience that this will cause an almighty scramble, with clubs tempted to gamble with money they haven’t got to buy personnel to keep their status. The end consequences are frightening.
Clubs may founder because of it, and there is another game-wide problem too. Plans to relegate two teams from Super League this season were heavily criticised last week by Bradford coach Francis Cummins, who highlighted that clubs’ junior player development could be the first to suffer as finances are diverted to short-term fixes.
It’s one of the last things Rugby League in the UK needs.
We have highlighted several times the absence of any effective plan to develop young Rugby League players, which the abandoning of a second tier at the end of 2012, at the insistence of the clubs by the way, and against the RFL’s recommendation, has made measurably worse.
Dual-registration, whereby some Super League clubs are able to field players at partner Championship clubs, hasn’t worked well in most cases but, because of the new structure, will surely have to be abandoned completely at the end of this year.
The prospect of a Super League club competing in a middle tier that includes a club with which it has a partnership, and has control over players who may have helped that club achieve its place, would completely destroy the integrity of the competition.
It’s time for the boffins at Red Hall to devise a player production line for the future health of the game – they could just get the plan they had last time out of the filing cabinet – and make sure all clubs play their part. Quite frankly, any club that isn’t doing its bit for the future health of the game doesn’t deserve to be in Super League.