BLOG: Is a world league the future for Super League’s big boys?

James Gordon

Rugby league continues to fight tradition with a desire to grow commercially in the modern sporting world.

The original premise of Super League was to create new, franchise models though ultimately tradition fought back and prevented it from happening.

Instead, we’ve seen the bigger clubs grow in to “franchise like” sporting organisations in their own right; and a number of franchises enter what is still a traditional league structure (Catalans, Crusaders, PSG, Toronto and Toulouse), when in theory only during the licensing era did this make any sense.

As the growing big clubs and rugby league chase new markets, bigger TV deals and more lucrative commercial partners, they may well have outgrown the current Super League set up.

With a desire for more North Eastern American teams to be created over the coming years, a world league could appear on the horizon.

That may be made up of perhaps 3/4 US/Canada teams, Catalans, Toulouse and 5/6 of the biggest UK teams.

Australian teams could be considered, though given Australia’s usual reluctance to provide any meaningful support to international competition – and of course the fact the NRL is succeeding in its own right – their involvement would be unlikely.

Either way, this would become a true franchise league – unlike attempts so far.

Super League would remain with those “left behind”, though the franchises in the world league could even run second teams in the UK league structure – given the prolificacy of the likes of Wigan and Leeds’ youth structure that would not seem to be beyond them.

The UK league structure would then return to a simpler format with a focus on developing the player pool and clubs nationwide in a sustainable manner.

It would also mean clubs could focus on growth without the threat of being blown away by a franchise club, like Toronto and Toulouse, who are on a blazing path up the pyramid.

As things stand, this is likely to continue – with a second North American team set to join the party in 2019; potentially disrupting the relatively organic growth and development plans of promising city areas of York and Newcastle.

The world league would become a true franchise league, like the NRL, and remain open to future applications – even from other Super League teams.

With a clear desire to improve commercial revenues, the all important TV deal and also attract investors like the ones that have brought Toronto the fore, the appropriate platform needs to be in place without it being detrimental to the foundations of the game.

What do you think of the idea of a world league? Or is there a way that further overseas teams can be accommodated in the current structure?