The Rugby Football League (RFL), the sports governing body, replaced the promotion and relegation system with a Licensed Super League in which membership of the elite level of rugby league would be decided every 3 years and would be based on a holistic assessment of the club rather than simply on field success. Clubs are assessed against various criteria under the headings: Facilities, Financial & Business Management, Community & Commercial Partnerships and Playing Strength, which includes junior development.
Thunder’s support of Super League Licensing comes in response to a Commons motion signed by nine Labour MPs, who are urging the RFL to review its system and to allow Halifax Rugby League Club to enter Super League in 2010. The motion states that the club has a “stadium and a team fit for purpose”.
Rod Findlay, Chief Executive of Gateshead Thunder, said: “All of the clubs have agreed to and are working within the current system. Like a lot of clubs, Gateshead Thunder is ambitious and we are working on the framework set out by the RFL. Thunder has regular meetings with the RFL and we are working at establishing ourselves as a strong player in the Co-operative Championship, before we consider applying for a Super League Licence.
Gateshead Thunder were in Super League in 1999 and we know the stadium is international standard, with Rugby League World Cup matches having been played here in 2000. However, we are working closely with Gateshead Council on their exciting plans for stadium development.
Thunder has recruited some experienced players to line up alongside the locally trained players that have come through and continue to come through the junior ranks in the North East. Thunder aim to build a sustainable business with strong community links. As that strategy develops, Thunder will be in an excellent position to realise its ambitions, but for now we are enjoying participating in a really competitive Co-operative Championship.”
Findlay was previously the In House Lawyer for the RFL and was responsible for establishing the framework and leading the assessment team for the Licensed Super League, with the final membership decision being made by the RFL Board. All clubs who applied for a Super League Licence in 2008, including Halifax, signed an application form stating that they agreed with the system, the decision making process and the selection criteria.
Commenting on the motion urging elevation for Halifax, Findlay stated: “Halifax are a very strong side and they may yet go on to win the Co-operative Championship, but that’s the prize that we are all playing for and the season is far from over. It’s not appropriate to change the system 6 months in just because one team has had a strong start to the competition.”