Consortia from Ottawa and New York will this week present their long-awaited bids to enter the domestic league structure next season to clubs – as Super League close introducing criteria for North American clubs aimed at securing the competition’s long-term future both financially and commercially.
The two prospective franchises will meet with Championship and League 1 clubs at Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium on Thursday lunchtime to outline their vision for the future as part of the growing landscape in North America, with a large portion of support understood to already be in place for the two bids.
However, a report last week shed more light on Super League’s approach to North American franchises, and League Express can reveal further details about the apparent extra conditions that will be put in place should any North American side wish to enter Super League.
Super League clubs are understood to have expressed a firm desire to be at the meeting this Thursday – and some will be present in Salford – believing the potential admission of the two franchises to be a whole-game matter rather than an issue simply relating to Championship and League 1.
Whether that request will be granted remains to be seen, but Super League are close to finalising agreements with the Rugby Football League that would help, in the eyes of the elite clubs, ensure that future values of the competition are not exposed moving forward.
One source told League Express that the extra criteria for expansion clubs in North America revolve, inevitably, around broadcast rights and the likelihood any franchise like New York would be able to bring their own television deal to the table to strengthen Super League’s financial and commercial portfolio.
Concerns are all-too realistic among top-flight clubs that by the time 2021 and the end of the current broadcast deal with Sky Sports comes to an end, there could be as many as four overseas teams in Super League: Catalans, Toronto, Toulouse and one of Ottawa or New York.
The fear is that with a third of the competition effectively having zero Sky Sports subscribers, that would weaken Super League’s position when going back to the negotiation table with the broadcaster – meaning the top-flight is keen to ensure other teams are bringing their own broadcast deals into Super League with them.
However, League Express has been assured that those criteria and the implementation of them will be on a case-by-case basis, and Super League has the right to relax or even ignore them if the case is strong enough from a club that wins promotion from the Championship into the top-flight.