Two more for Super League

The Rugby Football League have announced that, from next season, the Super League will have 14 teams instead of 12.nnThe decision follows a number of recent moves to expand the competition, especially in terms of its geographical transition.nnThe RFL hasn’t kept in hiding their desire to move away from the “strictly Northern” appearance of the game, and this was epitomised most recently by the entrance and great improvement of French side Les Catalans.nnAs of next season, Super League places will be given out by a licence system, replacing the traditional promotion-relegation system.nnA total of 19 clubs, including the 12 existing Super League clubs, have applied for a place in next season’s compeition.nnOther than the current 12 Super League outfits, Salford, Widnes, Celtic Crusaders, Leigh, Featherstone, Halifax and Toulouse have all put their bid in for a place in British rugby’s top flight.nnRichard Lewis, chief executive of the RFL, told BBC Radio Five Live that, due to Super League‘s success in its current state, it was an apt time to make the change.nn”I believe the sport is on the up and there are so many things that are going well. Television income, sponsorship income and crowd figures – so much is going well. I think the sport is ready to make that transition,” he explained.nn”The international game is growing and it is probably as good a time as any for the sport to go to a 14-team Super League competition,” he added.nnThe decision regarding the final shape-up of the Super League between 2009 and 2011 is expected next month, with the Super League licences reissued every three years.nnThis won’t be the first time Super League has been a 14-team contest. There were 14 teams back in 1999, but the downfall of Gateshead and Sheffield saw the competition revert to 12 teams.nnGateshead and Sheffield merged with Hull and Huddersfield respectively, before settling back into a lower level.nnThe new plans haven’t been welcomed by all concerned, though, and there has been widespread criticism from fans, many suggesting that the quality of the lower-league game will suffer.nnLewis remains confident that the new structure will not harm in any way the strength of the game in the National League divisions.nn”I know the National League is a very strong competition and that will remain very strong even when Super league goes to 14. I think the sport is ready to make that transition,” he assured.

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