Who should run Super League?

Martyn Sadler
Martyn Sadler

First published in League Express, Monday 7th Oct 2013

The RFL will hold an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday to debate the proposed new structure for the competitions from 2015.
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood will argue strongly for his proposal of having two top divisions of 12 teams that split into three divisions of eight teams after 23 rounds of competition.
I have asked the RFL to clarify some of the issues associated with this proposal, and the governing body’s responses are set out below, but in the meantime I understand that a majority of the Super League clubs will meet today at Huddersfield to discuss what is being proposed and to consider a radically different form of governance.
To put it in a nutshell, several of the leading clubs are not happy about being bounced into a new structure by the RFL, particularly when they deny RFL claims that they have already voted to accept the proposal.
The Super League clubs are unhappy that their competition is run not by them, but by the RFL.
They don’t believe that the RFL is able to exploit the commercial potential of the Super League competition, and they are convinced that the Super League should have its own chief executive who is accountable to the clubs and to the RFL.
As things stand, the clubs have absolutely no control over their own competition.
That is not a state of affairs that football or rugby union clubs would tolerate, and my only surprise is that the Super League clubs have spent so much time treading water.
I have written many times before that Super League needs a much stronger commercial identity to drive the competition forward.
The RFL is primarily a regulatory body, and it’s difficult for such a body to also develop the business of Rugby League in the best way possible.
What worries me about the RFL’s proposals is that they seem to be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, while not facing up to the major problem, which is the game’s poor commercial performance.
We all know that the NRL has a growing financial muscle, and the same applies to club rugby union in this country and in France. Rugby League can’t afford to stand still, and we certainly can’t afford to go backwards.
Most of the money generated by Rugby League in this country is generated by the Super League clubs.
The Super League competition does need a fresh impetus, but it has to come from the clubs themselves, hopefully with the cooperation of the RFL.

RFL clarifies its proposals – questions and answers

Under the two 12s & three 8s (SL1 & SL2) proposal:

Q. How much central funding will each club get in Super League & in the Championship?

A. At this moment only indicative figures have been provided to clubs, so these amounts have yet to be finalised.  However it is anticipated that the 12 Super League clubs would receive circa £1,300k each from 2015.  The 12 clubs in the Championship would receive between £650k and £150k, depending on their league position in the season prior.  Championship 1 clubs will receive £75k.  Please note these figures are based upon current revenues, and there will be scope to increase as broadcast and commercial revenue increases.

Q. How does this compare to what teams in Super League & the Championship get in 2013?

A. Super League clubs receive a minimum of £1,130k in 2013, with Championship clubs receiving a minimum of £90k and Championship 1 clubs a minimum of £70k.

Q. What will the salary cap be for Super League and the Championship?

A. This has yet to be confirmed (the Super League clubs and RFL have to jointly agree the Super League Salary Cap Regulations), but there will be a change to the regulations to account for the changing central funding and playing season.

Q. What will the prize money be for the three 8s?

A. Again this has yet to be confirmed, however it is likely that there will be prize money only for the teams reaching the Semi Final stage (final 4) at the end of each of the 8 team play-off series.

Q. How does this compare with what is on offer now?

A. Clubs finishing in the top 8 of the Super League and top 8 of the Championship competition receive prize money.  The prize money in Super League is predominantly funded from Play Off and Grand Final gate receipts, so differs year on year.

Q. Will both Super League & Championship have the same player eligibility rules (i.e. home trained, federation trained, quota etc)?

A. Wherever possible, however there will be some differences based upon whether clubs run full time academies or not (i.e. those clubs running full time academies will naturally be expected to have more club trained players within their ranks than those that do not). There may also be some slight differences on overseas quotas between the divisions, but this is a decision that will be taken in consultation with UK Border Agency who will be needed to approve the arrangements.

Q. If not, how will they differ?

A. As above.

Q. Who is responsible for making the final decision on the new structure?

A. Under the constitution of SLE, the RFL Board and Super League clubs (by simple majority) jointly determine the number of clubs in the Super League. The RFL Board determines the number of clubs in and format of the Championship; the use of promotion and relegation and the number of teams to be relegated/promoted from/to the Super League/Championship. The Super League clubs alone determine the format of the Super League. As you can see there are a series of “checks and balances” throughout the process.

Q. What is the voting system and how has that been determined? (eg if it is the clubs, does each club have an equal vote?)

A. As above.  Each SLE club has a single vote at SLE meetings.

Q. How long will the new structure last before it is reviewed?

A. Everyone is committed to ensuring that the new structure is a success and that if introduced, is in place for a number of years.

Q. What will the structure below Super League & the Championship look like?

A. There will be the Championship 1 division, with teams playing between 20 and 26 matches depending on the number of clubs in the division and views of the clubs on the optimum number of fixtures.

Q. Will clubs be able to progress through the new structure on merit & subject to minimum standards (i.e. like in soccer), or will the distinction between pro/semi-pro clubs & the community game be maintained?

A. Initially there will remain a distinction between pro/semi pro clubs and the community game, with teams unable to move between the community game and professional game on merit. This may be reviewed at a later date.

Q. Are Toulouse being considered for Super League or Championship?

A. Yes, provided that their entrance is supported by a substantial television rights fee or commercial funding from a French broadcaster(s)/sponsors.

Q. Why/why not?

A. As above.

Q. If they are being considered, will there be any ‘protection’ afforded to them if they finish bottom?

A. It is too early to speculate without confirmation of the position of the French broadcaster.