IT’S one of those debates that will perhaps forever be at the front of rugby league fans’ minds: should promoted Championship sides be exempt from Super League relegation?
There are eager proponents of the argument but those supporters are also opposed by a vociferous number who believe that promoted sides should fight for their spot in the top flight just like the rest of the teams.
However, look at the evidence since Super League began: only one top flight club has ever been given exemption from relegation and that was the Catalans Dragons.
For three seasons, the French club were not allowed to drop down to the second tier, but it was a policy that worked for them.
Catalans have been regularly fighting for a top four spot in recent years and have even won the Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield in the past five years.
Since relegation returned in the past decade after a flirtation with licensing, only one club has been able to stay in Super League after being promoted – Hull KR.
Every other side – whether that be the London Broncos, Toulouse Olympique, Leigh Leopards or Toronto Wolfpack – have fallen at the first hurdle.
That begs the question, why?
Well, first of all, Championship teams do not know for sure whether they will be in the top flight until September/October time, leaving it really late to be able to recruit for the following season.
Second of all, by that time anyway, most of those players without deals for the following season will have been snapped up, leaving promoted clubs fending for scraps.
And there is then the danger of being relegated just a year later, making it even harder to attract quality players without being safe in the knowledge that they will stay in the division.
Now, a simple solution could be to allow promoted sides a one or two-year exemption, allowing for the building of a competitive squad and one that could actually maintain top flight status.
However, that would then open a can of worms, would the sport relegate a side finishing second bottom instead? Like Castleford Tigers in 2006, the West Yorkshire side finished three points ahead of Catalans, but were pushed down a division.
Of course, credit to the Tigers who have since become a household name in Super League, but that relegation of a side that doesn’t actually finish bottom could ruin some particular sides.
With IMG becoming stakeholders in rugby league, plans have already been set in motion to announce grading criteria for clubs in a move away from the traditional style of promotion and relegation.
But, there could still be the argument of whether or not a promoted side should be given longer to adjust than those already in the top flight.