League 1 is currently in its own version of the Super 8s – but would it better off with a north/south split?
This wouldn’t be a complete north/south split, given the need for the southern and expansion teams to test themselves against more established opposition.
Those who watched Love Rugby League Weekly with myself and Dave Parkinson last week will have seen us talk about the League 1 structure.
My idea is that League 1 would effectively be split in to two conferences – North and South – whereby you play everyone in your conference home and away, and then play everyone in the other conference just once.
This would mean that the expansion teams can play more competitive games, but also means they get the chance to test themselves against the heartlands clubs.
What it also means is the prestige of being League 1 South champions is afforded, rather than just having the pat on the back for being “best of the rest” as it appears to be now.
Promotion could ultimately be decided by a super play-off between the two conference champions (or top two from each, depending on what the clubs wanted).
When the leagues were re-structured a few years ago, it was expected that outside of the Championship would become regionalised North/South, though this never happened.
Given even football regionalises below a certain level, it would be a sensible step, particularly to try and reduce the soaring travel costs impacting teams at this level.
So, without wishing to offend anyone, let’s assume that the current top two of League 1 (Toronto and Barrow) go up, to be replaced by the current bottom two of the Championship (Bradford and Oldham). League 1 could be made up as follows:
L1 North: Bradford, Keighley, Hunslet, Newcastle, Oldham, Whitehaven, Workington, York
L1 South: Coventry, Doncaster, Gloucestershire, London S, North Wales, Oxford, Hemel, South Wales
Clearly there could be an issue with Doncaster, and also to an extent North Wales (though I imagine they will want to retain a “derby” match with what will be West Wales next season).
Perhaps increasing the two conferences to nine clubs – therefore allowing Doncaster to move to the north – and then introduce two further expansion sides might be the way forward.
Ultimately, as has been seen with the issues surrounding the North Wales and Hunslet game this weekend, it is better for clubs to have their full schedule of games known in advance – and not with a few weeks notice.
Likewise, it must surely be difficult for clubs in expansion areas such as Coventry, Hemel and South Wales to sell tickets to games when they are losing the majority of their games.
A change to the league set-up may well address this, while also future-proofing the hopeful further growth of the semi-professional ranks.