Changes needed to fix “unacceptable state” of rugby league

James Gordon

St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus has confirmed they will vote in favour of proposals recommended by the RFL at this Friday’s EGM.

The long-running structure saga is set to come to a head when clubs meet and attempt to thrash out a deal for the future of the game.

McManus’ counterparts at Hull and Hull KR also released a joint statement stating their support, though a press conference has been called for this afternoon by five members of the Championship and League 1 advisory group, who are believed to be against the changes.

With all Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs getting a vote, as well as the community game, there could be a stalemate at the meeting, though the RFL board do have the power to force through any changes.

In his statement, McManus said: “No one can credibly say that Super League and the game of rugby league in this country has in any way strengthened or improved over the last decade; quite the contrary I’m afraid. Change for the better is needed and without delay.

“The deal recommended by the RFL, and agreed to by Super League after months of detailed discussions, is fair to all parties and also enables Super League to focus on improving its own quality, profile and commercial performance.

“As Super League is the vehicle from which the vast proportion of the entire game’s finances derive, it is in everyone’s interests that a more professional and dedicated senior management is allowed to focus its efforts to improve its business performance and commercial value.

“I believe that Super League is one of the most undervalued and unexploited major sporting brands in the world. The necessary changes have to be agreed and implemented in order to remedy this unacceptable state of affairs.

“This will be done whilst ensuring that the RFL remains our professional governing body and is itself sufficiently funded to enable it to fulfil its own duties and obligations.

“The RFL clearly considers that this proposal achieves this requirement. There is absolutely no “war” as is being irresponsibility represented in some quarters, only professional negotiations which have resulted in a sensible proposition for all.

“The proposal provides game wide stability and sufficiency of funding whilst also enabling Super League to make much needed progress in its own business. It protects the funding of Championship clubs for the remainder of this TV deal and is supplemented with pragmatic guarantees beyond.

“Super League is, and always has been, very supportive of the Championship competitions and will remain so. It funds our Championship clubs to a much greater proportionate degree than does Premiership Rugby Union or the NRL for their equivalent lower leagues, and we have agreed to continue this.

“The Super 8s structure is not appreciated by the majority of fans and sponsors and the financial ramifications to Super League clubs amply reflect this. Its detrimental consequences cannot continue. A system of straight promotion and relegation has the full backing of Super League whilst enabling better performing Championship clubs to continue enter our competition based on merit and quality.

“Too great a financial and commercial gulf has opened up over the last decade between Super League and the NRL and Premiership Rugby Union. We have to be equipped to improve every aspect of our finances and to improve the quality of our game. Most importantly, we have to be allowed to position ourselves strongly to negotiate a materially improved deal with potential media partners in the years ahead.

“This RFL proposal provides us with an improved ability to achieve those objectives, to the cost of no one but for the potential benefit of all. To reject it will result in a protraction of an already prolonged period of commercial underperformance and a further diminution of the profile and value of rugby league in this country to the detriment of all its participants.

“The game is not strong enough to withstand that continued scenario.”