Powell worried by Championship expansion

Featherstone coach Daryl Powell has hit out at the move to expand the Championship to 14 teams.

Northampton Rebels, Hemel Stags, University of Gloucestershire All Golds plus one other, as yet unnamed club, will join the professional ranks next year, meaning four teams will be promoted from Championship 1 to join Featherstone and the nine other current Championship clubs.

It means that the current 10-team Championship, which is enjoying one of its most competitive seasons with just four points separating the top six, will grow to 14, while Championship 1 will remain at 10 teams.

But Powell fears that expanding their division will dilute the quality of rugby on show.

He said: “This season teams have raised their levels, there have been lots of quality signings, and every game is tough and a challenge. We’re playing in tough encounters, which is good for the players, and it brings out the best in them, the coaches and the fans.

“Growing to 14 dilutes the quality. The one thing the Aussies have got over us is the fact they play in competitive games week in, week out.

“Our competition should stay at 10. We need to look at the format of the whole sport to create a more tight, competitive season, because that’s the only thing that will get the game where it needs to be.”

Featherstone have finished top of tree in the Championship for the past two seasons, claiming Grand Final success last year, and this year have enjoyed a fine Challenge Cup run, including the scalp of Super League neighbours Castleford, while putting up a brave show against holders Wigan.

But they may find that difficult to replicate in future seasons, with four new teams likely to result in an increased fixture list for the players.

Powell added: “Some serious thinking needs to be done about how all these games are going to be fit in. These are all part time players, so it’s going to be difficult.

“The Championship needs to be included in the forward thinking of rugby league.

“There needs to be some sort of representative structure for Championship players, as there’s not enough to aspire to at the moment. Maybe they could bring back the Lancashire and Yorkshire competition, different things need to be thought of.”

While it might not be a Championship Magic Weekend or a representative match, Featherstone do enter the unknown this weekend, when they host French Elite champions Pia in the first Anglo-French challenge, with the pair vying to become European club champions.

The game, which will be televised by Premier Sports, is part of an Anglo-French weekend which also sees Leigh host Avignon, while Sheffield and Halifax travel to Carcassonne and Toulouse respectively.

About James Gordon 7067 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.

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