There is still no decision on rugby league’s plan for restructuring the game below Super League.
A series of meetings have been held with Championship and League One clubs, RFL officials and representatives of Super League.
Various suggestions have been aired, but nothing has been confirmed and – officials of the three Cumbrian clubs Whitehaven, Workington Town and Barrow are still in the dark as to what the future holds.
Will there be Super League Two, will an extended Championship be created and a Development League created?
Cumbria Crack has learnt of proposals put forward by RFL Vice-President, former Hull KR chief executive and respected figure Mike Smith which are being circulated to clubs.
Smith initially explained: “Sorry for being so disruptive at the meeting at Bradford but coming from a marketing background I found it very frustrating.
“At such an important meeting we never discussed any of the key issues allowing us to start to put together a coherent proposal to reinvigorate the sport under Super League.
“I understand that we all have different opinions but as a ‘starter for ten’ here are my key primary thoughts to kick off the discussion, please feel free to comment so we can start to develop a consensus between us all.”
He then goes on to outline his own proposals for the restructuring:
- Development clubs. Coventry, London Skolars and West Wales are perennial lower league clubs. With the cut in central distribution and travel it will become even more difficult for these clubs to prosper. If these clubs were part of a development league with other midlands/southern amateur clubs, they can prosper and grow. It’s important for the image of the sport that we are seen to be still open to expansion. This development league can be used as an incubator for clubs who aspire to develop into a professional club.
- Player Development Pathway. All clubs under Super League should be aligned with amateur clubs in their geographical local area to provide a pathway for young players into the professional game. It should be mandatory for each pro club to run a second team made up contracted players and amateur players direct from their catchment. These games could be played on a Wednesday evening on a regional format. Players should not be paid win or lose money, and a small admission fee will make this format cost effective. Any club should be available to run an academy team if they meet minimum standards set by the RFL.
- The RFL. An external review should take place to establish the most cost-effective structures to integrate Super League into the RFL and to run the sport going forward.
- Rebranding. The current structure of Championship and League 1 is an impossible product to market successfully. Finding a simple fixture format below Super League is essential. This would allow the creation of a new brand and fixture format. Central to the marketing of the brand around our world-class athletes that makes the sport so exciting.
- Fixture format. The remaining 21 clubs under Super League are northern based with the exception of Ottawa. This provides much easier travelling times and reduces costs. The format could be either regional conferences or preferably all teams play each other once, creating a 20-game season before clubs being split into a play-off series at each level of the league to establish final prize money. The winners of the top play-off group would automatically proceed to Super League, the second team would play-off with the second bottom of Super League in the ‘Million Pound’ game.
- Prize money. This should be paid based on the finishing position after the play-off series. A club being relegated from Super League with a parachute payment should not receive any prize money for that season.
- Game Format. To maximise ‘bums on seats’ games could be played on Saturday evenings as a standard throughout the season, proceeded by ladies and junior games. The games could be marketed as ‘Saturday Night Lights’ events that would integrate live rock bands. This concept of rock and rugby would attract a younger audience and breathe new life into the sport, creating more hospitality opportunities.
- Changes to the games format. If we as a sport wish to attract a younger audience, we need to examine every aspect of the game day experience. This includes changes to the game format to make it more exciting and a fast sceptical that showcases our world-class athletes
- Future Broadcasting opportunities. Getting ‘Bums on Seats’ and a rocking spectacle is a critical start if we are to attract any potential broadcaster to get involved.