Why does Rugby League so often seem to be just one step away from total chaos?

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 15th Feb 2021

Why does Rugby League so often seem to be just one step away from total chaos?

Last week the Executive Chairman of Super League, Robert Elstone, revealed that he was going to leave his post, which made some people think he was resigning, with immediate effect.

That was not so. It appears that he was giving his notice.

The comical thing is that the majority of Super League directors (one from each Super League club) seemed totally unaware of what the notice period is, so two of them were given the responsibility of checking that out.

We therefore have to wait now, to discover whether or not Robert Elstone will remain in post until his notice period expires, or whether the clubs decide to cut their losses and re-integrate themselves back into the Rugby Football League.

The most likely outcome is that Super League (Europe) Limited and the RFL will create some sort of joint venture company, and that company will appoint a General Manager who will be responsible for Super League, with the line of responsibility for that running through the RFL to the RFL Board.

That could, of course, mean some readjustment to the membership of the RFL board of directors, with one appointed member who would generally represent Super League’s interest on the board, while remaining independent.

The one thing we cannot have, however, after the last three years of ineffective self-government by the Super League clubs, is the clubs calling the shots.

Unfortunately, what we have seen is Super League clubs putting their own short-term interests ahead of the game, with Elstone trying to satisfy their competing demands.  That was never going to be a model that would advance the cause of Rugby League, or even of Super League itself.

The Super League clubs now find themselves owing £750,000 to a merchant banker who introduced a private equity partner, whose offer was not supported by all twelve clubs, making it impossible to accept.  And, although there is a broadcasting offer on the table from Sky, it is deemed unsatisfactory by the clubs and they are still trying to negotiate a better deal.

The signs don’t look promising but the situation is critical.

The RFL urgently needs to plot a way forward.

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