Super League needs resolution fast – Pearson

Adam Pearson
Adam Pearson
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HULL FC owner Adam Pearson last night admitted Super League must sort its problematic structure issues swiftly but says any final decision on its future has to “serve all clubs and not just a few”.

He was one of six club chiefs who walked out of a crucial meeting in October, preventing a vote taking place on restructure proposals for 2015.

Though agreement has been made that promotion and relegation will return after six years of the much-maligned licensing system – two teams being demoted at the end of this season to reduce Super League from 14 to 12 clubs – there is still no definitive course of action for the following campaign.

The Rugby Football League’s Policy Review had recommended the creation of two top tiers of 12 clubs that, after 23 rounds, move into seven game play-off leagues, including Super League’s bottom four facing the Championship’s top quartet.

This was expected to be given the green light in October but – led by Wigan Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan – Hull, Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Warrington Wolves and Catalan Dragons all left proceedings, arguing any debate on change should only take place alongside a review of the competition’s commercial management and governance.

Clearly Lenagan, in particular, wanted a greater say on how the sport as a whole should be run, especially as the competition has received no money from a title sponsor for the last two years, something which should be remedied imminently with the announcement of a new backer ahead of a campaign that starts in less than a month.

Some clubs, also, certainly desired a greater financial distribution while expressing concerns about other aspects of the Policy Review which would result in a reduction in the number of Academies, an increase in overseas players and potential rise in salary cap.

There should, however, finally be some clarity forthcoming with two vital meetings set for next week as clubs reconvene with the RFL/Super League to resolve the dispute that has threatened to cause an implosion of the domestic game.

“It is crucial this gets sorted and it is a very important time for the sport,” Pearson told the Yorkshire Post. “We will listen to what they have to say next week and then decide which way we want to go with the competition.

“But one thing is certain; it does need restructuring as the finances aren’t there to sustain 14 clubs.

“Talk of a ‘walk-out’ is a bit dramatic. Basically, we just wanted to see all clubs in a position to vote sensibly and didn’t want something railroaded through.

“We wanted more detail and something that serves all the clubs and not just a few.

“We all want it to get sorted but it’s got to be right. We’ve only got one chance for this and Super League has to show it can get better revenues in for the clubs.

“It will, though, all be sorted by the end of January, whatever.”

The Yorkshire Post understands there will, in fact, be a conclusion by the end of next week.

Tuesday’s appointment will be the first of a series of meetings to talk about Super League governance going forward, but Friday’s affair will solely be to discuss the all-important league structure.

There must be a final resolution and agreement on that subject then otherwise there will be a sim ple two-up, two-down promotion and relegation system come 2015.

When asked if it is a crucial time for the sport, Huddersfield managing director Richard Thewlis said: “I’ve no idea because I’m not sure if anything will have changed.

“I presume it has, but I’ll attend next week and see what is said.”

Leeds Rhinos, though, have been long-time advocates of the plan.

“We think the Policy Review is a very sound piece of work which aims at giving a game-wide solution and delivers a very exciting future for both the Championship and Super League,” said chief executive Gary Hetherington.

“We’re very supportive of that document and its proposals. It delivers what the game requires and it’s just been so unfortunate the whole process has been derailed.

“We have to get it back on track as soon as possible and this is the urgent part of the policy review that has to be sorted now.”

A majority of eight votes are needed to secure the go-ahead and, with Catalan since changing their stance, it is expected.

All Championship and Championship One clubs are in favour.

Castleford Tigers chief executive Steve Gill added: “However we do it, we all need to come out of this in agreement. But we can’t have things staying status quo. That would be a step back.

“Hopefully we can all come together and there’ll be no pre-conditions. It will be for the good of the game and I feel Super League and the Championship will both be stronger for it.

“We back the RFL policy and I was getting a bit bored with Super League as it was; if you are not challenging for trophies or the top eight who cares?

“That’s the attitude a lot of clubs have taken and we have to hold our hands up and say we’ve been guilty of that in the past too.

“We need to create excitement again where every game counts.

“I think the idea of Super League’s bottom four and the Championship top four playing off at the end of the season will create that and give people a chance to see semi-finals at all levels. I wish we’d done it years ago.

“The license system hasn’t worked. Clubs have been able to get lazy once they’ve found loopholes in that system.”