RFL can block proposed structure changes, says Rimmer, but sees opportunity for change

New RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer has promised that the governing body has the power to block any proposed changes to the league structure amidst the ongoing uncertainty – while also claiming that the ‘civil war’ between the two sparring parties gives rugby league the ‘energy to do something different’.

Ever since Super League owners declared last month that the Super 8s was ending this year – sparking a remarkable tit-for-tat process among club owners – the future of the league structure has failed to be completely clarified, with Championship and League 1 owners adamant they want the structure to stay.

Wednesday’s AGM failed to provide any sort of outcome, which now seems as far away as ever. But Rimmer confirmed that whatever happens, no single party will be allowed to manipulate change, explaining that the RFL has the decisive say.

“We have a veto on any changes to the competition structure,” he said. “The RFL board would need to be convinced there is enough appetite to make a decision in the interest of the whole game, to make any changes.”

Gary Hetherington has publicly made it clear he has aligned himself against the other top-flight sides, and with lower-league clubs in support of the Super 8s, and while Rimmer conceded the ongoing rows and uncertainty were not healthy for the sport’s image, he stressed That the RFL is not adverse to change, should it be approved across the board with a majority.

“I stood in front of the clubs yesterday and spoke at some length about the need to find a solution,” Rimmer said. “All the disruption – and I mean that in a positive way – gives us the energy to do something different though. and I am convinced that we do need to do some things differently.”

Rimmer also admitted the RFL have set internal deadlines for when they want the issue resolved, but refused to declare them publicly. “I don’t think it’s of much benefit for them to be shared externally,” he said. “The structure cannot change, and neither can the funding distribution, until 2021, unless it’s with the support of the RFL board.”

Last October, a New York-based consortium declared their intention to enter the RFL in 2019, but Rimmer conceded that the ongoing uncertainty over the league structure now makes that timeframe unlikely. He said: “We need to find ourselves some stability before we make those decisions.”

Interestingly though, the RFL have also noted that a team from Ireland has expressed an interest in joining the professional ranks, following the appearance of Longhorns RL, a Meath-based side, playing in the Challenge Cup this season.