Opinion: Should there be promotion and relegation from the Super League?

Over the weekend, the debate about promotion and relegation reared it’s head again with the question should Toulouse be protected?

The French side’s Head Coach Sylvain Houles was speaking over the weekend, believing his side should be granted an exemption from the drop.

Back in 2006, Catalans were given a three-year exemption from relegation. This was just as well, as they finished bottom in their first Super League season.

However, with their exemption, they were allowed to build in the Super League. They finished 10th the following season, and reached the Challenge Cup Final. But they were beaten by St Helens.

The Dragons then finished third in 2008. And minus a couple of dips, including finishing bottom in 2010 and securing their Super League status via the Million Pound Game in 2017, they have played at a good level.

Looking at the Dragons, there would be a case for allowing Toulouse an exemption to continue building the game in France. Particularly with the World Cup coming to France in 2025.

Should Promotion and Relegation change?

James Cunningham in action for London Broncos

At the moment, the Super League runs on a system of one up and one down.

This is a system that has come and gone over the years. It was the system used in the Super League during it’s formation in 1996.

With the exception of between 1998 and 2001, when a couple of mergers were formed, promotion and relegation stayed until 2008.

That was when licencing was introduced, which stayed until 2015 when the Middle 8s came into play. Then in 2019, it went back to one-up-one down.

Over the years, there have been some clubs where they were not effected by relegation, and others that were.

Some teams like Workington, Oldham and Halifax have struggled. While others like Huddersfield, Castleford and Salford have all used it to their advantage.

Personally, I feel as though if promotion and relegation is to work, it needs to be more than one-up, one down. In the NCL, all of the leagues of three-up, three down.

It may not have to be that extreme, but a similar model to that of Scottish Football could benefit. It is one-up, one down automatically, with another place decided by a play-off.

The play-off consists of the play-off winners of the league below, and the side who finished second bottom. Although, this would be a similar model to the Million Pound Game, which was not well recieved by certain parts of rugby league.

Should there be a return to licencing?

Between 2008 and 2014, clubs were awarded three-year licences, off the back of what Catalans did.

There is also the argument that licencing should return. This is an argument I can see merit in, as it would seperate full-time, part-time and amateur teams.

If clubs are going from a full-time environment into a part-time one, then it is no wonder some of them struggle, particularly at first.

On the flip side of that argument, if the side relegated stays full-time, then it can lead to quite a one-sided league and you get a group of teams who aren’t good enough for one league but too good for another.

This would put a stop to that, and clubs can apply to go full-time and go to the next league, or go part-time and go a league down.

However, there are drawbacks to that. Widnes and Crusaders came into the Super League via licencing.

Crusaders decided not to go for a new licence in 2011 amid off-the-field problems. The owners could not fund the club anymore. Although a new club was formed in it’s place.

Meanwhile, Widnes had a couple of good seasons in the Super League, but were unable to build on it. There had been a decline since making the Super 8s in 2016, and were relegated in 2018.

Since their relegation, they almost went bust in 2019 but they were saved at the 11th hour. They have since had to go part-time and are still in the process of rebuilding the club.

Overall, there is no perfect solution to protect clubs from relegation. But I do feel like something has to change to stop leagues from getting stagnant.

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  1. No.If a club is fit ( an improved Bradford Northern for example ) then bring them up.


  2. yes, and an expanded league. bin the loop fixtures, bring the league up to 16 teams and done. a much larger pool of players in the top tier – and more competition for the usual suspects at the top of the table. then have two up two down every year. we stop watching KR and FC play each other 50 times a year, cas can play Leeds, Fev or Wakey for a rivals round if you must, get Leigh, Widnes, York, Workington all up into the top league. RL is boring – Saints / Wigan every sodding year – sure it suits them but it doesn’t work as a whole

  3. Solution is obvious. Super League is too small and can easily sustain 14 or even 16 clubs. However, the current 12 don’t want to share the money!

  4. Houles knows the rules , why again protect the French , we had it when Paris were in the league then when catalans were introduced . Now they are wanting it again. Come on RFL let’s protect our own Grass roots teams . Bradford , Featherstone , Leigh & Widnes are capable of competing at super league level if they have the same support , as we know leigh were not treated the same as the other 11 super league clubs last Season with central funding etc etc .

    • Fully agree with no protection for ANY team. Everyone needs to take the chance they are given. In the case of Toulouse, they lost two of their most influential players from the promotion year before a ball was kicked. It’s unfortunate, but it happens and could just as easily have been injuries as anything else. More time needs to be taken building a solid foundation rather than rushing to get into the Super League. No sign stories for poor treatment of Leigh though. They knew what the constraints were and still chose to take the option of SL. Personally I look forward to when Featherstone get promotion. A slow and steady build on a solid foundation.

  5. It is essential promotion and relegation are maintained in British Rugby League. Otherwise our game will be like the Australian one where all rest apart from the top teams are feeder clubs for them.

  6. Licensing is the answer. Promotion aspirants can only offer short term contracts at present, possible investors have little incentive and we need more investment.Licensing does not eliminate the chance of reaching SL but increases the chance of staying there. When we reach the ‘million pound game’ commentators talk about players’ livelihoods on the line etc etc. licensing helps remove this uncertainty & introduces stability. Bring in licensing with the aim to increase investment & increase the number of clubs in SL.

  7. Both sides of the argument have merit. What is clear is that if Toulouse are relegated at the end of 2022 then it will look like yet another ridiculous and illogical decision by the games’s leaders in the light of the World Cup situation. A hybrid solution might work – give Toulouse an exemption to end of 2026 specifically to maximise chances of the World Cup 2025 being a success. But also, carry on allowing promotion and relegation for everyone else for the same period (1 up 1 down). That would mean 13 in Superleague for that time but there’s no harm in that, it just means 2 less loop fixtures. End of 2026 it’s 2 down one up if the desire is to return to 12.

  8. Agreed. Relegation is not the issue, the real issue is the lack of a fan base outside a few northern towns and villages. Superleague needs teams in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle an in the south of England.

  9. Sick of hearing about the village team Featherstone not being wanted in SL. Fev could become a national story if they went up due to the village success, and so give SL the TV boost they are desperate for. Bradford, Widnes, Halifax would all kill for the crowds Fev are getting. This weekend we played Widnes who brought less than 100 supporters but still had 1000 more supporters than Wakefield. Franchise killed support as there was nothing to play for. Bring it back and the game will die

  10. Yeah let them stay up. Make it a 13 team league next season and then they can battle it out with Fev or Leigh next year

  11. personaly i think there should be promotion and relagation because it raises the quality in the championships tol teams,but also think the newly promoted sideshould be exempt from relegation in first season to establish them selfs to super league as nearly every promoted side has gone straight back down

  12. Answer is simple. Yes, it must exist promotion and relegation.
    A closed league will only make more damage to the sport.
    Something that it must be made is to completely open the pyramid and permit relegation to Conference Leagues.
    It’s simple: At end of season National Conference Premier and Conference League champions play a game. The winners of that game play vs the last team of League One. If the League One team wins the game they keep its place. If loses the game it’s relegated to Conference. That format is used in Scottish football and is excellent

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