After just 4 rounds of the Stobart SuperLeague in 2012, the top half of the table is already looking very familiar, and there are an increasing amount of predictable scores coming in each weekend. How can we combat this? Could a Ten team Elite league with a completely clear structure and an open pathway to the top for lower teams actually work?
I actually thought of this idea and wrote this blog back in June last year, and this season has only strengthened my opinion that a 14 team top division is too much, and too many 'average' teams are propped up with 'average' players.*
(*Of course I am not talking about your club.)
Here is a proposed structure, based on last seasons final standings... I think the game gets good enough ratings which would enable the RFL to push for an appropriate TV deal (or deals) and ensure that the entire game from top to bottom gets a more even share of the television pie.
Stobart SuperLeague (18 games + top 4 play offs)
- £1.8m salary cap, with Academy exemptions. Two import players allowed
- Sky TV deal (2 games per week plus highlights)
- Old Trafford Grand Final
- Wooden spooners relegated to RL Championship
- Enter Admin = relegated to RL Championship
Co-Operative Championship (18 games + top 4 play offs)
- £1m Salary cap, with Academy exemptions. Two import players allowed
- Sky TV deal (1 game per week plus highlights)
- Grand Final at City of Manchester Stadium
- Winners directly go up to Stobart SuperLeague
- Wooden spooners relegated to RL Division 1
- Enter Admin = relegated to RL Division 1
Co-Operative RL Division 1 (16 games + top 4 play offs)
- Premier Sports TV deal (Highlights + 1 live game per week)
- £750,000 Salary Cap (exemptions for academy players, Two import players allowed)
- Grand Final at Huddersfield
- Winners directly go up to RL Championship
- Wooden spooners relegated to RL Division 2
- Enter Admin = relegated to RL Division 2
Co-Operative RL Division 2 (16 games + top 4 play offs)
- RFL subsidised travel costs
- TV deal (Extended Highlights)
- 50% turnover up to £300,000 Salary Cap (exemptions for academy players, two import players allowed)
- Grand Final at Huddersfield
- Winners directly go up to RL Division 1
- Wooden spooners reapply for their place
- Enter Admin = relegated to 'Tier 5'
Then the Co-Operative 'Tier 5' National amateur leagues (winners can apply to RL Division 2)
Then the Co-Operative 'Tier 6' Regional amateur leagues (winners can apply to Tier 5)
Then the Co-Operative 'Tier 7' Regional Merit leagues (anyone can apply to Tier 6)
With everyone now playing summer, The Carnegie Challenge Cup can start in March with 128 English & French teams and adds a further 7 matchday weekends. 38 'pro' clubs join at the last 64, with the Final at Wembley and 2 games per round Shown on BBC/ITV.
I think this kind of structure could give Rugby League in England exactly what everyone wants. The smaller divisions would provide much more competitive and exciting games across the board for the fans. It would be a slightly reduced season, but with plenty of opportunity for home games to keep the chairmen happy. More importantly, it would give clubs the opportunity to find their own level and achieve their ambitions, whatever they may be.
Fans of some clubs may not be happy about the league their beloved team is in initially, but surely if they are as good as they say they are, they will go up after the first season?
A slightly reduced season would give us more opportunity for International fixtures both mid & post season, Plus the possibility of an extended World Club Challenge and even a possible Anglo-French club competition. And with just two import players allowed for each team in every division (and NO silly loopholes!), it would give our home-grown players their chance to shine.
I got a bit of stick on twitter for suggesting this on Saturday night after the Wakefield v Bradford game, but now what do you think? Could it work...?