Saints chairman McManus hits back at Hetherington

St Helens’ Chairman, Eamonn McManus has taken the latest swing in the ongoing battle at the top of the sport after describing Gary Hetherington’s recent comments as wholly inaccurate in content and destructive in intention.

Hetherington called the statement made by McManus and other chairmen representing the Super League board “an absurd power grab by a small group of men who think that they own the game.”

It came after the board expressed their confidence that a new league structure would be in place by 2019.

Hetherington furiously dismissed that and criticised their comments, and was followed by others from Championship and League 1 clubs.

But McManus has hit back at Hetherington again, although stressed the new structure proposal is still pending agreement from the RFL.

McManus said: “Gary Hetherington’s recent description of the democratic election of a new CEO by Super League as “…an absurd power grab by a small group of men who think that they own the game…” could not be a greater distortion of the truth.

“The decision to appoint a dedicated and focused CEO of the highest professional calibre was made enthusiastically and overwhelmingly by a fully constituted board of directors of Super League who wish only to improve the quality, profile and commercial performance of their elite competition. This appointment has been very well received by supporters, commercial partners, media partners and by the RFL.

“Each Super League club appointed its own director to the board of Super League six months ago. This constitutional change was made to ensure transparency of information to all clubs and to provide equality of influence and equality of treatment by and between all clubs. This concept clearly does not seem to rest well with Gary.

“No director of Super League acts as though he owns the game. However, their clubs do actually own Super League and in equal shareholding proportions. They intend to run Super League democratically and professionally, as is our duty. I have never known Super League clubs to be so unified and to have such a strength of purpose as they do presently.

“Gary’s comments on the Super League competition structure vote were also as inaccurate in content as they were destructive in intention. The board of Super League, by a majority of 11 to 1, voted to end to the Super Eights structure and to replace it with a more orthodox and readily understood form of promotion and relegation. It strongly considers that the annual risk of up to one third of its clubs being relegated acts as a major disincentive to full, proper and long-term investment, which in turn will also have a consequent negative effect on the entire game.

“However, it was made abundantly clear in Super League’s press conference on Tuesday that the implementation of this unequivocal view was still subject to the agreement of the RFL. It was also made known that constructive, private and professional discussions had been taking place between Super League, the RFL and the Championship clubs in recent weeks and that it is now Robert’s priority task to continue these to an appropriate conclusion.

“That said, any theoretical continuation of the Super Eights beyond this season would effectively force a competition structure upon a very unwilling Super League by bodies which are significantly funded by Super League – that is not a practical or sustainable scenario for any party.

“Super League considers change to be essential in many areas in order to improve our profile, perception and commercial performance, and that competition structure change is fundamental to this.”