THE Rugby Football League’s preferred restructure proposal for Super League finally got the green light yesterday – but only by the narrowest of margins.
The Yorkshire Post understands top-flight clubs voted 7-6 in favour of the controversial three groups of eight format for 2015 with Catalan Dragons abstaining.
The clubs also voted unanimously to reduce the competition from 14 to 12 clubs at the end of this season, something initially agreed last July but only rubber-stamped now.
However, there was not as much certainty about the convoluted method of bringing back promotion and relegation to the sport.
Six so-called ‘rebel’ clubs had voiced their displeasure last October at radical plans for a 12-team Super League and Championship with the three-way split coming after 23 rounds.
They walked out of that meeting and – though they stayed yesterday at St Helens to allow the vote to take place – they have clearly not backed down from their opinion.
It matters little today, however, given the governing body have at last secured the majority they required to put their initiative – a central tenet of the RFL’s Review Policy – in place.
It should be ratified at a RFL board meeting next week and clubs will finally know how the landscape of Super League and the Championship will be shaped in the years ahead.
Furthermore, it is understood the ‘rebel’ clubs – including Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves, Huddersfield Giants, Hull FC and Hull KR – have, for all their squabbling, agreed to strive to make it a success as the sport looks to build itself a brighter future.
Super League ditched promotion and relegation back in 2008 in favour of a licensing system which, in theory, gave those in the top flight greater stability.
However, it also denied Championship clubs any hope of promotion in three-year cycles and, subsequently, there has been growing concerns about an increased number of dead-rubber games and clubs struggling to generate revenue.
The new format will see, at the end of 2015, the bottom four Super League teams join the top quartet of Championship clubs for a series of seven games.
It is understood after those fixtures the leading four will secure a Super League spot for 2016, but the fine details have still to be released.
Super League (Europe) Chairman Brian Barwick said: “I would like to thank the clubs for their contribution to what was a very fruitful and positive meeting.
“The clubs were unanimous in their view that Super League should become a 12-team competition from 2015 and that there should be meaningful movement between Super League and the Championships.
“There was a full and frank debate about the competition structures and a commitment to support the proposed format.
“The Super League clubs’ decision will now go before the RFL’s independent Board of Directors for ratification next week.”
Full details will be announced later this month.
Comment: Page 7.