It’s nearly 24 years since British rugby league took a £75m deal from Sky’s Rupert Murdoch to launch a summer European Super League.
The idea was for Super League to consist of a number of merged clubs, stand alone clubs and then new clubs in Paris and Toulouse, with a Cardiff side playing in the First Division.
The top four Super League clubs would then play-off against their Australian counterparts, though of course the Super League war in Australia soon put paid to that idea.
In what may sound like a familiar tale, Leeds were initially opposed to the summer switch but eventually agreed at a vote of club chairmen.
But, having all voted primarily for the significant cash injection, it was soon clear that many clubs were opposed to the proposed mergers, and as a result, the first season of Super League in 1996 was a mere shadow of what was intended, and perhaps two decades on the sport has never really shrugged off the missed opportunity and remains unclear on what it wants and where it wants to go.
Read the revolution starts here as written by Dave Hadfield in the Independent.
Proposed Super League
Humberside (Hull/Hull KR)
South Yorkshire (Doncaster/Sheffield)
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we’ll never know how successful the above may have been. How would the clubs have been branded? Maybe in the digital age it would have gone differently.
Perhaps most interestingly is the stand alone clubs that are included – Halifax, for instance, were one of the top clubs at the time but would sadly barely be considered if a similar discussion was had these days.
Warrington have turned in to one of the game’s top clubs, but would have been lost under the Cheshire banner with Widnes, who despite their tribulations in recent seasons have maintained a decent club, having been one of the most successful teams in the decades leading up to the Super League era.
Both Hull clubs too have made significant steps forward on and off the pitch, and clearly a merger there would not have been successful.
Missed opportunities in the list are clear – Cumbria, Manchester, Paris, Toulouse, South Yorkshire. Save for Sheffield’s glorious day in 1998, for whatever reason the game still hasn’t been able to really thrive in that area.
We are now stuck in a vacuum between maintaining the traditional standalone clubs, while still trying to incorporate franchises in the name of expansion with mixed results – see Gateshead, Catalans, Celtic Crusaders and Toronto Wolfpack.
Proposed British First Division
How long until the next revolution?