RFL faces promotion and relegation conundrum

Several Super League clubs are continuing to push for relegation to be scrapped this season.

Talks over promotion and relegation continued last week, with clubs become increasingly keen to resolve the matter.

Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell has gone as far as saying he will not invest any more money into his club until he is given assurances that relegation will be abolished at the end of the season.

There is a split of opinion on the matter through Super League and the RFL. Super League bosses are keen to remove the threat of relegation due to fears the financial implications could have catastrophic effects for the club that goes down, with clubs already feeling the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the RFL is keen to maintain the right for a club to be promoted to Super League, as it would be seen as unfair on Championship clubs who have invested heavily to earn promotion this season.

The prospect of a 13-team Super League has been mooted, though there is some apprehension about adding a team as it reduces the number of home games clubs will have next season, as well as logistical issues that come with having an odd number of teams. It’s also been suggested that it would be followed by two teams being relegated the following season to bring the competition back down to 12 teams.

Despite the matter becoming an increasing priority for clubs, the uncertainty surrounding the sport’s ability to resume, as well as the landscape of the competitions once they do return, mean it is currently difficult for a decision to be made.

Lockdown measures in Toronto and Catalans, for example, could restrict them from playing any further home games, which would leave the two clubs at a distinct disadvantage.

Additionally, while Super League is keen to return to action as soon as possible to fulfil its obligations to Sky, the Championship and League 1 are not under the same pressure and the prospect of them returning later, once they can attract crowds, has been mooted. If that were to happen, it would mean the two competitions wouldn’t run laterally, making it difficult to promote or relegate a side to and from Super League.

With so many variables still in play, a definitive answer still appears some way off.