More changes to RL structure discussed
The first steps towards a re-alignment of Super League and the Rugby Football League were taken when club representatives met to discuss plans for a restructure of the game.
Among the proposals was thought to be a long-term one to change the 12-team Super League to two divisions of 10 but no decisions were taken and clubs will be expected to provide feedback ahead of a re-convening of the meeting next Friday.
Clubs will also consider a short-term plan to suspend relegation in 2021 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic but continue with promotion from the Championship.
The plan to increase the Betfred Super League to 14 teams in 2022, followed by a huge restructure which would result in the competition split into two divisions of 10, is on the cards, according to media sources in West Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Live say: ''There is thought to be an appetite to reduce the top flight to 10 teams in the long term in an attempt to provide high-quality competition on a weekly basis for broadcasters while also strengthening the second-tier, which it is hoped would then bolster the attraction of a TV deal for the competition.
''However, the proposal would see the top flight initially increase the number of teams, before relegating four teams in 2022. It is seen as the fairest way to remould the divisions in light of the impact Covid-19 is having on the season.
''But there is a growing belief that it would be unfair to relegate a team from Super League at the end of the season given the disruption that has been caused due to Covid-19. A large number of games are set to be unfulfilled due to the number of outbreaks across the competition, with the virus still causing postponements.
''However, with the vast majority of Championship fixtures being fulfilled, there's also no valid reason to deny promotion from taking place at the culmination of the campaign. As such, the proposal is to promote two teams, to ensure an even number of teams are in the division next year.
''Four teams would then be relegated next year and would be joined in the second tier by the six teams who finish highest in the next year's Championship.''
They add: ''Crucially, the gulf in distribution money between the two competitions would be significantly reduced. It's hoped that will make promotion and relegation more sustainable for clubs moving between the two divisions, while also closing the funding gap for the part-time clubs that would be in the second-tier.
''One drawback of the proposal would be a lack of home games, with an 18-fixture format providing a guarantee of just nine home games per season. However, it's thought there are plans to ensure clubs can host further home fixtures.''
The proposal is one of several on the table. Castleford Tigers' managing director, Mark Gratton, is said to have also tabled a proposal that clubs have been told to go and consider.
But sources at Championship level have been left encouraged by the meeting, saying the distribution figures discussed weren't as bad as they had feared.
Clubs had been wary of a huge drop in funding due to the reduced Sky TV deal, but with the restructure proposals in place, their funding would not be cut as significantly as they thought .
However, there is thought to be concern among clubs that may not make the top two divisions. As part of the proposal, funding would be significantly cut for teams not in the top two divisions.
Clubs have been left to consider the proposals on the table, with further consultation to take place next week.
Super League’s interim chairman Ken Davy is leading the drive to bring his organisation closer to the governing body following the split of 2018 and, along with RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer, Davy led discussions with clubs from all three tiers of the professional game.
Rimmer said: “All of us involved in these discussions want the very best for their clubs, players, fans and the whole game.
“The collective approach has been positive and constructive and there will be further consultation with clubs in the coming days.”
In addition to re-alignment, topics discussed included central funding distribution from the new television deal and potential new competitions designed to help grow the game commercially.
Davy said: “The emphasis of the meeting was to provide a platform for discussion on several key areas of the sport, which can be the catalyst to drive the game forward in the coming years.
“The whole game approach to these discussions is testament to the importance placed on ensuring we deliver a compelling, long-lasting structure for the whole sport.
“The next two years are absolutely vital for the sport. We need to continue to make rugby league an attractive sport to supporters, broadcasters, viewers and commercial partners.”