Talking Rugby League: Let Super League 2014 commence

Martyn Sadler
Martyn Sadler

The Super League clubs will hold meetings on 14 January about the governance of their competition, and on 24 January on the structure of the league competitions.

At the first meeting I dare say they will discuss how Super League should operate, and what is the best management structure to support it.

If the RFL can reach agreement with the clubs that would give them a greater degree of control over the commercial operation of Super League, then the second meeting would become much easier.

Even though I strongly dislike the two-twelves, three-eights model put forward by the RFL, I could imagine the clubs agreeing to it if they got what they wanted commercially.

If they can’t reach agreement, then the likelihood is that they will stick with 14 clubs in Super League in 2015.

The RFL is holding a gun to the heads of the Super League clubs, however, by insisting that two clubs will be relegated from the Super League this year come what may.

We have a system in place whereby the RFL Board of Directors is able to determine policy on promotion and relegation, while the number of clubs in Super League can only change with the agreement of the clubs themselves.

So if the clubs insist on remaining at 14 clubs, two of them will still get the chop at the end of 2014, and two clubs from the Championship will replace them.

It’s clearly unsatisfactory for the RFL’s strategic policy on the structure of the league competitions to operate in this way as a form of brinksmanship.

And the worrying thing is that if two teams are relegated at the end of 2014, the two clubs being promoted to Super League would suffer just as much damage in trying to adjust from being part-time to full-time.

Whatever happens, the RFL needs to find a sensible way of dealing with promotion and relegation. And I don’t think that the imposition of the two-twelves, three-eights model is going to do that.

What we urgently need is a conventional league hierarchical structure that allows movement between different levels, but which doesn’t kill off the clubs financially.

The RFL needs to take the best element of licensing with the best element of promotion and relegation to find a system that will work to everyone’s advantage, while delivering excitement for all.

The best element of licensing is that it gives a club three years to adapt to its promotion to Super League. Widnes have shown us the benefit of that.

The best element of conventional promotion is that a club will go to a higher level because of its achievements on the field, unlike when Widnes were given a licence to enter Super League, when they didn’t need to finish at the top of the league to get into Super League.

So why not have a three-year rolling cycle of promotion and relegation, where a team is promoted every three years, but it only qualifies by winning the Championship Grand Final in at least one out of the three years.

In any three-year period as many as three separate clubs could win the Grand Final. So why not have them compete in a play-off to decide which club would gain promotion?

That would then generate the same sort of excitement that football enjoys with its promotion play-offs.

And the key thing is that the club that is successful would have three years to consolidate its position in Super League.

We could also have relegation play-offs, based on the same principle, to determine which team goes down from Super League to the Championship.

I’m convinced that this system would be far better than what the RFL is currently offering both the Super League and the Championship clubs.