Hints at more Championship expansion; clubs could merge

James Gordon

The Championship could extend to 16 teams to accommodate the new Ottawa side, according to Bradford chairman Andrew Chalmers.

The second tier extended from 12 to 14 teams for the 2019 following the abolition of the Super 8s format, which meant that both Swinton and Rochdale were able to gain reprieves from the drop at the end of last season, with the Lions beating Workington in a hastily arranged play-off match.

Chalmers’ Bradford came up via the play-offs having missed out on automatic promotion to York, who are flying high in third place.

With uncertainty over the allocation of funding from 2021 onwards, it is likely that League One will become increasingly marginalised.

Writing in his column in the Telegraph & Argus, Chalmers said: “Some details are still to be ironed out, but it appears from the discussions taking place amongst Championship Chairman, that the preference is for Ottawa to compete in an expanded Championship competition, potentially as early as 2020 or 2021.

“I can see a 16 team Championship structure having a lot of advantages, which could mean ultimately another re-jiggle between the League 1 and Championship competitions.

“Possibly meaning only one team being relegated from Championship, and two being admitted from League 1, and the inclusion of the Ottawa expansion team, potentially making up a 16 team competition.

“Interestingly some teams may choose to partner/merge or even relocate. It’s long been mooted, but that is a possibility some long established clubs might yet face.

“Having witnessed first-hand the wizardry at work at the end of last year, nothing would surprise me, once the wand is to hand.  Let’s see.”

Chalmers also swung an almost inevitable dig at his Super League counterparts, referencing the ongoing concern over rugby league’s future broadcast deal.

He added: “Congratulations must go to the RFL on this North American expansion track. I definitely think they’ve got it bang on.

“I hear the murmurings from the Super League shadows, who are anti-expansion, unless it’s in France, but the reality of the French experiment is this.

“After twenty years and a gazzilion pounds, you have to ask what got accomplished? They can’t even now generate a standalone TV deal that meaningfully contributes to the central pot.

“I know the Super League hierarchy are in love with the South of France, but frankly I couldn’t give a toss.

“If you thought carefully about this, the answer has to be Paris and Lyon based teams. Money, power, and in the case of Lyon a strong rugby base.

“Someone needs to send the roses around for when the Super League blazer brigade wake up!”