The impending return of promotion and relegation could end up killing rugby league, according to Widnes coach Denis Betts.
The Vikings have been the success story of the licensing process, earning their return to Super League through a successful application in 2011, and progressing from 14th to 10th in their second season back in the top flight, under the stewardship of owner Steve O’Connor, who bought the club out of administration in 2007, and chief executive James Rule.
But the licensing system is set to be scrapped following the recommendations of the RFL’s Policy Review, although the exact structure of the game for 2015 and beyond remains undecided, with Super League clubs set to meet for discussions next week.
And the RFL have guaranteed that regardless of the overall structure of the divisions, promotion and relegation will return from next season, a decision that Betts doesn’t agree with.
He said: “I think promotion and relegation could end up killing rugby league. As serious as that.
“When you look at the game at this moment in time and the teams that have been about for a long time, who are supposedly pretty strong with good support bases, and see the trouble that they’re in, what does that tell you about teams who are going to overspend to get in this division, who haven’t got massive support bases or sugar daddies.
“They need to come in and speak to James (Rule), speak to Steve O’Connor to see how hard it is to actually do this. We are still losing money, we’re trying our best not to lose much, but the game’s on a precipice at the moment.
“You cannot grow. The talk is of it’s in our culture and it’s in our nature as a sporting nation. It’s dreadful, it’s rubbish, we need to look beyond that and what suits this game, not what rugby union and soccer are doing.
“I think we’re a real good indication. Promotion and relegation is there, it’s just on a licensing process. It’s not like it’s not there. If you’re not good enough and someone else ticks the boxes, bring them in.
“Cleverer blokes than me are trying to organise this. I don’t see it. I don’t get it. Maybe it works on a short term basis, but if we are looking at fans over a number of years, I think we are going to lose.
“They might buy in to the gimmick in year one, but then in year two they don’t, and we change it again, what does that look like?”
After being granted a licence for the 2012 season at the end of March 2011, Widnes retained nine players from their final season in the Championship in their first 25-man squad back in the top flight, and went on to finish bottom of Super League with six victories, finishing level on points with Castleford.
They were previously in Super League between 2002 and 2005, when they earned promotion by winning the Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final back in July 2001.