Blake Solly, Super League‘s general manager, has reassured supporters that the new restructure of rugby league will be financially resilient.
With the return of promotion and relegation, some observers have expressed concern that clubs could soon be spending beyond their means again, as they look to chase dreams.
Solly insists that the introduction of a five-player overseas quota for Championship clubs will not trigger panic spending, however.
This is because new financial sustainability rules will keep a lid on clubs spending more than they can afford.
“What was quite clear was that when you’re going to have Super League and Championship clubs compete against each other for at least a quarter of the season, that they neeed to have wherever possible the same regulatory system,” he said.
“So we needed to expand the number of quota players available to clubs in the Championship to five.
“I think it’s important to note that everything we’re doing is underpinned by the introduction of the financial sustainability regulations this year, which means that clubs are limited to what they can spend on players to 50 percent of their revenue.
“That’s very important, because that underpins the financial sustainability of the competition and the clubs.
“There’s no point restructuring and getting new money into the sport if it’s flying out just as quickly.
“The Super League clubs made a decision a few weeks ago to stay with the salary cap as it is this year, in order to allow that extra money to ensure the financial sustainability of their clubs.
“Likewise in the Championship, the introduction of that sustainability regulation means that they won’t be spending more than they can afford in order to be promoted.”
Solly is aware that some clubs’ stadiums do need to be improved. The priority right now, however, is that every ground is suitable to meet broadcasting requirements, and that the pathway to Super League is open to every club.
“We’re aware that there are some stadiums that are looking to be improved. What we’ve said is that we’ll try and make the facility standards and criteria as objective as possible.
“So at the moment the most important thing is the ability to service the broadcast contract. That’ll stay in place.
“We know that clubs are going to continually try to improve their facilities. We’ve got some broadcast audits ongoing at the end of the year.
“So we’re pretty confident that the clubs in the top 24 will have faciltities that are up to scratch.
“They may not be perfect and they may not allow the club to make as much money on a match day as they’d like to, but we’re pretty confident they’ll be able to fulfill the broadcast contract.”
There are still some issues to be ironed out, with one of these being the potential use of a bonus point system in Super League.
Consultation with fans is ongoing on this issue, according to Solly.
“At the moment we’ve got two points-scoring systems over two competitions and that’s not ideal,” he said.
“What we want to do is make sure that we’ve got one standardised points-scoring system across the three professional leagues.
“We’ve spoken to clubs, we’ve spoken to coaches, players, who we now want to hear from are the fans.
“At the end of the day, they’re the people who are paying their money to either watch the game on TV or go to the games.
“We’re running a fans’ consultation in association with Leeds Metropolitan University, we just want to hear what the fans want to say.
“What we are excited about is the fact it gives us the opportunity to keep to speaking to fans about the new format, and it’s important the fans have a say in it.