Wood unveils RFL’s seven-year plan

Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood last Friday unveiled an ambitious new seven-year plan to boost rugby league’s growth and popularity.

Wood wants to see crowds rise from 2.3million a year to 3million, as well as  the game’s turnover rising from £118million to £146million.

He has also targeted an increase in television viewers of five million, to 22million, as he outlined a grand vision for the game which extended to 2021.

Wood has also set a target of acquiring nearly 66,000 participants by 2021, compared to 46,636 now.

He is also keen to to see the number of Super League clubs making a profit rise from just three at the moment, to nine over the next seven years.

Perhaps the most eye-catching aim, however, was for England to end what would be a  45-year wait by winning the World Cup in Australia in two years’ time.

“The litmus test for our game is the performance of the national team,” Wood said.

“I know it is a brave thing to say but I believe we should set the bar high.”

With recent high-profile defections from the sport occurring in recent years, Wood has also prioritised keeping talent in the game.

He hinted that the so-called ‘marquee player’ rule, whereby a club could exempt one player’s earnings from the salary cap, could be under consideration.

He ruled out raising the salary cap any time soon, with clubs able to rise above the £1.85 million ceiling on occasion anyway.

“There is a case for a marquee rule of some description that will enable clubs to retain talent,” Wood said.

“I am sure there will be further discussions on that.

“It is important that the cap grows in relative terms to the growth of the game and it is worth pointing out that, if a club uses all the allowances currently available and wins trophies, it can spend something like £2.5million a year.”

Wood, who is also chairman of the International Federation, also backed the further expansion of the World Club Series, and also told reporters that he would like to see Super League clubs participate in the annual Auckland NRL Nines.

He has also recently met representatives of Toulouse, as the French club continue to express an interest in joining Super League. They will not be fast-tracked into the competition, though.

“They do want to come in but it is dependent on a viable business plan,” he said.

“We are working with the French Federation to try and deliver the best solution for France.”

England will be playing France this year in a test match, in addition to their three-game series against New Zealand.

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