The application process for Super League begins once again this December, but uncertainty still surrounds Toulouse’s potential involvement.
It has been stated that to apply, Championship clubs must either win the Northern Rail Cup or appear in a Championship Grand Final which, at present, means that only Widnes, Barrow, Halifax and Batley are eligible to apply for a place at the top table in 2012.
Although Toulouse could of course still reach a Grand Final this season, the form of Featherstone and Leigh, who themselves are desperate to satisfy the on-field criteria, makes that unlikely, particularly when Toulouse face a four-way battle with Sheffield, Widnes and Batley for the final two play-off spots.
It does raise questions over the feasibility of Toulouse in the Championship and whether they will proceed with an application, regardless of them satisfying the stipulated criteria. Applications are due to be filed in the first week of December 2010.
Of course, there was controversy earlier in the season when it was suggested that the club’s president had said that they had been told they can apply regardless, a claim that was refuted by the RFL. It did, however, tug on the suspicions of some fans.
A statement on the Toulouse official website this week states their intention to apply for a Super League licence, yet makes no reference to reaching a final, and the fact that they would not be able to apply should they not reach the Grand Final this season.
It does go in to points about developing their ageing Arnaune Stadium, its need to seat 12,000 fans and that a decision, presumably from the local authorities, would be needed on the development by November 2010, with the overall cost likely to reach up to 13m euros (£10.8m).
Their stance does imply that they believe that they could reach Super League regardless of on-field criteria – after all, they publicly stated that they were joining the Championship as a stepping stone to reach Super League.
Whether this was done by the RFL to appease Toulouse after they were rejected in 2009 (they were also rejected when Catalans joined the league in 2006) is unknown, but the logistics of a French team in the Championship must surely be stretching the purse-strings of both the RFL and the clubs.
There have been rumours that Toulouse could withdraw from the Championship in 2011, to help them concentrate on their preparations for Super League in 2012 – it makes sense, when you consider the considerable savings made from not flying to the UK at least 10 times.
Either way, Toulouse’s position will certainly add intrigue to the application process. How will club’s react if Toulouse are allowed to apply, even if they don’t achieve the on-field criteria? What will Toulouse do if they aren’t allowed to apply?
Who knows, but with the ongoing stadium woes of Castleford, Wakefield and Salford, the licensing process is set to cause just as much controversy as last time.