The news that Super League will definitely reduce to 12 teams means the final decision on the future of the game is edging nearer.
It’s pivotal that the correct structure is put in place for the future, because rugby league needs to start focusing on how it can improve commercially, rather than constantly having to question itself.
When the product is good, it’s up there with the best. The problem has been, under the six years of licensing, the lack of meaningful games, not only in Super League, but in the Championships, where ambitious and growing clubs such as Featherstone are hindered by a glass ceiling.
It looks likely that the split option will be the future – unfortunately, because of the way the process has been handled, mentions of the split option is immediately met with negativity.
The revised version of the split – which would see teams play each other home and away in two leagues of 12 and a Magic Weekend, before splitting in to three groups of eight – isn’t actually a bad option.
The purpose of the re-structuring has to be how the game can attract more commercial partners, and also squeeze more television revenue out of SKY.
If, after the re-structure, the game still can’t find sponsors, then it’s hard to see what the way forward would be.
It would appear that the controversial dual-registration system will either be phased out or diluted, with an Under 23s competition returning.
There are also plans for a revised academy set-up, that would see a maximum of 10 clubs run with professional players at Under 19 level, and other clubs linking up with an education partner to form a centre of excellence. Clubs would then be rewarded with a greater percentage of central funding for the production of Super League standard players.
One of the priorities of the review is to develop more players, and keep more players in the game. Dual-registration between the tier three Championship and tier four Community game has been proposed.
The North East, Cumbria, the Midlands, the South West, London and Wales will also be targeted for player production, linked to Championship 1 clubs and supported by Super League clubs to help retain and develop new player pools.
Despite the back-track on licensing, expansion is still essential to the RFL’s plans, but any clubs wanting to work up to Super League will need to start at Championship 1 level. Where this leaves Toulouse, remains to be seen.