Standing their ground

GARETH WALKER, the Championship correspondent of League Express, examines the recent debate about the structure of Rugby League from the point of view of non-Super League clubs.

Last week was undoubtedly one of the most volatile in recent Rugby League history.

The fall-out from the unveiling of Robert Elstone as the new Super League chief executive went well beyond his appointment, when those present chose to state that this season was set to be the last of current structure.

It quickly emerged that was not a decision the Super League clubs alone can take, and was a bold move that angered both Leeds and many of those outside the top flight, who queued up to condemn it through statements of their own.

So where do we go from here?

The good news for supporters of Championship and League 1 clubs is that their representatives appear galvanised by what has unfolded, and appear as united and well organised as in memory.

Those clubs have their own advisory group, who issued a detailed release last weekend outlining their stance on the situation.

The statement read: “The position of the ‘Advisory Group’ has consistently been one whereby the best interests of Rugby League must rank ahead of the needs of a few wealthy club owners.

“And that importantly a competition structure and format, with associated funding is in place until the end of 2021, and that any changes prior to 2021 would require the agreement of the Championship and League 1 clubs, in consultation with the RFL and its broadcast partners.

“Otherwise no changes could be contemplated or sanctioned to the competition or funding structure prior to the expiry of the existing agreements which run until the end of 2021.

It continued: “Championship and League 1 Clubs will continue to engage in respectful and appropriate discussion about the future of our sport, in accordance with the RFL constitution, which all UK clubs are bound by.

“Decisions about the league’s competition structure, which have profound implications for all clubs and all divisions are whole-of-game issues and require dialogue and consultation, with if necessary votes at the game’s supreme chamber, the RFL Council, when all RFL members can express their view.

“It is not for a private company or a newly appointed executive who has not sought the views of the sport to simply state what the future structure and funding arrangements of the sport will be.

“Championship and League 1 clubs regret very much the current tactics and behaviour of some fellow RFL members which we believe is immensely damaging and undermining to all stakeholders, and puts at risk valuable assets and broadcast contracts both now and in the future.”

This much is clear – the sport now needs strong leaders and mediators to bring the two parties back together, for the better of Rugby League as a whole.

Read Gareth Walker’s Championship Focus column every Monday in League Express