Super League: Will restructure of domestic game in 2015 work?

Leeds Rhinos

The Rugby Football League announced this week that it plans to reduce the number of teams in Super League from 14 to 12 for the start of the 2015 season.

Having had met with a lukewarm response in May, have been put forward by the RFL, both of which would result in two sides dropping out of the top division at the end of next season.

One involves a 12-team Super League running alongside a 12-team Championship, which would split after 23 rounds into three groups of eight.

The other option is for two divisions of 12, with promotion and relegation returning, and the current licensing system scrapped.

Championship clubs will discuss the proposals next week and Super League clubs will also reconvene before a final decision is made later in the summer.

BBC Sport spoke to players, coaches and officials to ascertain their views on whether the changes will be good for the domestic game.


Nigel Wood

Chief executive of the RFL and Super League:

"The clubs engaged in a robust and frank debate about the future of their competition and gave their full support to the RFL in our search for the most compelling league structure.

"It is apparent that there is a strong and widespread desire to deliver a really exciting league season that provides well-run clubs at all levels of the game with opportunities to flourish, succeed and make progress.

"Our task now is to drill down into the details of a range of issues, such as minimum standards, financial distributions and the various mechanics around promotion and relegation."


Shaun Wane

Wigan head coach told BBC Radio Manchester:

"To be honest, I'm a little bit mixed.

"I know something needs to happen because of the financial plight of certain clubs, but I'm really conscious of teams feeling the need to go out and sign big-name players and get themselves in debt again, and that has happened in the past.

"I'm a firm believer that we still concentrate on promoting from within and developing our youngsters. That's the way forward for Wigan Warriors and I think it's the way forward for rugby league in general in this country."


Mark Aston

Sheffield Eagles head coach told BBC Sport:

"Are there enough quality players for 14 teams in Super League? At this moment in time, probably not. Is it right to come down to 12? Yes, I support that. Then it comes down to two groups of 12 that goes into three groups of eight. Why are we making it complicated? It could be two divisions of 12, or two divisions - one of 12 and one of 10.

"My concern is where are they getting 24 teams from, because I can't see that number at this moment in time, and where do we see the second set of 12 teams? You can make your own observations on the first 12. Who should go in or out and next year will be interesting because two teams will get relegated.

"The second 12 will see the two teams out of Super League, but how many teams have we got in the Championship that are viable? How many have a performance structure?

"There's probably Featherstone, Halifax, Leigh and Sheffield. Are Toulouse coming in? They were in before and then went back out. With Toulouse that is seven. Where are the other five teams? Clubs who come in should be made to run performance structures. If they're not running performance structures, then what are they bringing to the party?

"They've got to get it right this time or there's going to be a lot of damage to the game."


Jon Wilkin

St Helens forward, England international and chairman of the Super League Players' Association:

"Some change is required in the competition structure. We were probably overstretching our resources. This is an opportunity to make the competition more intense, commercially viable and sustainable.

"Promotion and relegation is something associated with British sport. Some clubs have a rich history and have been an integral part of the game, so it's good to have access back to the top flight.

"It's a positive step for the game, if tied up with a strong commercial plan."


Kevin Sinfield

Speaking before the new proposals were announced, the Leeds Rhinos and England captain told BBC Radio Manchester:

"Something that's fundamental is getting people through the door. So far, whichever system we've had in place, I don't think we've been getting people through the turnstiles.

"What's really important is that the RFL communicate properly and really educate our fans, so that they understand exactly who's going to be playing who and what format things are going to be followed. I think there are people out there who don't understand the current play-off system.

"When we were with the England team ready to face the Exiles, Nigel Wood came in and explained three possible proposals. The one that [Leeds chief executive] Gary Hetherington explained to me about a fortnight ago was a completely different proposal.

"The ones that the players' union voted on didn't have a say on this current one that's been thrown up. It would be unfair to say that players are against this one because I don't think we've actually had a vote on it."

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