Robert Elstone to leave role as Super League boss

Robert Elstone is to quit as executive chairman of Super League, paving the way for a return to a single governing body for rugby league.

The 57-year-old former Everton chief executive had been in the post since June 2018 but had come under increasing pressure recently to resign and in 2020 survived a vote of no confidence.

A statement said: “Super League can confirm that it has received notice of executive chairman Robert Elstone’s intention to leave his position.

“The matter will be discussed by the Super League board and no further comment will be made at this time.”

Elstone was recruited by Super League clubs dissatisfied by the running of the game by the Rugby Football League (RFL) to head up a rival administration to prioritise the distribution of central income generated by the top flight.

His priority was to negotiate a new television deal, with the current contract with Sky Sports due to run out at the end of the 2021 season, and also sought to bring in extra revenue through private equity investment.

However, clubs recently rejected a proposal that is thought to have been worth £61million in return for giving up a 27% stake to Novalpina Capital and officials are also bracing themselves for a reduction in TV income.

Plans to sell to a private equity firm would have needed unanimous support but Leeds, St Helens, Warrington and Leigh were all thought to have voted against and now the league is facing a bill for a finders fee of around £750,000.

Clubs were also split over the decision to decline Toronto Wolfpack’s application to re-join Super League in 2021, a move strongly advocated by Elstone.

Elstone’s departure now looks certain to spark fresh moves to merge the two governing bodies.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington went out on a limb in 2017 when the majority of Super League clubs voted to break away from the RFL, a move he described as an “absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game”.

St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus was a big supporter of Elstone but has since aligned himself with Hetherington’s views.

Rugby league officials have also come under pressure to reunify the game by the Government, who have made a total of £28m available in loans to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A likely reduction in income from the next television deal will be acutely felt by Championship and League 1 clubs who are likely to see Elstone’s departure as potentially the end of rugby league’s civil war and will debate their next move at a scheduled meeting on Wednesday.

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7 Comments

  1. Elstone as brought nothing to the game at all he has not improved or brought any extra investment to the game a complete waste of money The super league has not improved since he was appointed but the super league owners need to take a long hard look at themselves they appointed him As a long time supporter of our great game we need someone who has a great love for our game to take it forward and this should be under the control of the Rfl and all the clubs as one body there are to many with self interest

  2. Good to see the back of Robert Elstone. His contributions since becoming executive chairman has seen our income go in reverse. He has failed in every aspect of the job.

  3. Thank goodness for this announcement ,I’ve been screaming for him and Rimmer to go both useless and fresh outlook needed to take the game forward right from grassroots and the game needs marketing correctly to address the feasibility required to move on.

  4. Nothing annoys me more than reading the negative comments above. Elstone had a lot of good ideas but nothing could materialize during Covid.

  5. He’s done his job. Widened the gap between Football, Rugby Yawnion and Rugby League. Gave the expansion possibilities of Super League a good seeing to albeit with the help of Covid. He’s done very little for his employer but gave a good leg up to the competition sports. He’ll soon be forgotten in the Rugby League world which speaks volumes for his efforts.

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