Next Monday is set to be the biggest day in the 25 year history of the Hatton’s Solicitors National Conference League when the 38 clubs will be asked to vote on whether the competition switches to summer for 2012.
The NCL League Management have unanimously taken the decision to strongly recommend to the clubs that they accept the invitation of the Rugby Football League to play as the “The Conference League (North)” from March 2012 onwards.
“At the request of the NCL clubs, we have worked long and hard with the RFL through the Community Board, to come up with what the NCL Management feel is an attractive and workable summer competition for the clubs,” said NCL Chairman, Trevor Hunt. “And we are unanimously agreed that this is the way forward for the NCL clubs, the NCL League and the sport in general.
“It is a big decision to make, but we feel the arguments for a summer competition now massively outweighs those for remaining in winter. The NCL has a unique opportunity to shape its own destiny and forge forward to truly make Rugby League a sport for the 21st Century for participants outside of the professional game.
“It is now up to the clubs to decide if they are ready to take on that opportunity and that challenge!”
Under licence to the RFL, the NCL Management Committee will administer the new 2012 summer competition to the same operational and competition rules as the ones they currently operate for their winter league.
Once the League is up and running, the RFL and NCL will work together to fine tune these operational rules over the 2013 and 2014 seasons to ensure the ongoing success of the Tier Three competition.
This Summer League will operate at Tier Three level in the new pyramidal structure and will sit directly under Super League, (which is Tier One), the Championship and Championship One, (which sit in Tier 2), and will provide a direct promotion opportunity into Tier 2 for any clubs with such ambitions.
It’s a momentous decision, but a third successive bad winter has left the clubs without fixtures for almost three-months in some cases and with a massive backlog to get the schedule of games completed in the League.
The NCL Committee met with the RFL representatives last week, and unanimously voted to recommend to the clubs that they accept a series of proposals that would take the NCL into a new level of competition.
With the Conference Youth League already playing in summer and Junior League’s seemingly set to follow, it would appear to only be a matter of time before the game would naturally progress to a summer competition as youngsters progressed through the ranks.
But instead of drifting towards that inevitability, the NCL now have the opportunity to be in charge of their own destiny.
It’s a huge call, but the NCL have never shirked away from taking on new challenges, and with the same management, operational and competition rules, it should ensure that the clubs concerns over administration and management are suitably addressed.
The only change to what they do now, that the club’s players and administrators would see, is that they would play in summer rather than winter.
It’s now up to the clubs to make their decision.