Shane Richardson reveals details of proposed British rugby league overhaul

Only four current Super League clubs would be guaranteed places in a new 10-team competition suggested by former Hull chief executive Shane Richardson.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 10:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 10:26 am
Shane Richardson
Shane Richardson

The one-time Super League board member and NRL head of strategy has revealed more details of a paper he put together for a proposed overhaul of British rugby league, at the heart of which is the establishment of an independent commission to run the game, as happens in Australia.

The paper, circulated to a number of English clubs, is based on a plan Richardson presented to the NRL with the aim of garnering interest in purchasing or helping to purchase Super League.

Richardson, who helped found Gateshead Thunder in 1998, says his motives are based on a genuine love for the game in England and Europe which he claims is hugely undervalued because it is “a dying and decaying sport”.

“The game is never going anywhere until smart independent business minds look objectively at the business, and most importantly are not bogged down by the past and vested interests, but look to invest in the future,” Richardson says in the paper.

“The powerful clubs should recognise that they cannot grow profits in their clubs unless an independent commission that does not have any current people involved makes decisions for the betterment of the whole game.”

Richardson says the first step would be to remove the name of Super League and make a fresh start, with a 10-team top division and a second tier comprising a maximum of 12 part-time clubs, with an amateur league below.

Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and Leeds would be the only automatic selections for the top tier, along with one from Hull and three chosen by the commission deemed to be beneficial to the growth of the game, with Richardson pointing to Newcastle, York, Wales and London as examples.

“The game cannot sustain more than 10 teams at this stage,” says Richardson, who believes the other two places should go to overseas teams, mostly likely from France.

Under Richardson’s proposals, there would be a two-year moratorium on promotion and relegation to allow the competition to become embedded, followed by one-team promotion and relegation from the end of the third year.

Richardson also wants a shake-up of the international game, accusing previous administrators of pouring money into European teams despite 75 per cent of the players coming from the southern hemisphere, an act he describes as “commercial suicide”.

“International games were all mostly about money and political support but in reality lost enormous amounts of money and smashed the IRL’s credibility with the ARLC,” he says.

Super League executive chairman Ken Davy is currently involved in talks with the Rugby Football League about a re-unification following the split of 2018.

Richardson wants an international calendar that includes Tests, Origin, World Cup, Development Internationals and 9s events.

The highlight would be an end-of-season Test series involving Australia, New Zealand and England which would be held twice within a four-year cycle, alternating between the two hemispheres.