The news that Wakefield are to invest in their existing stadium poses a number of interesting questions with regards to next month’s Super League licence announcement.
The RFL will confirm who from the existing 14 Super League teams and Halifax will join Widnes in Super League 2012, with the Vikings guaranteed the automatic spot from the Championship back in March.
Many believe that the three expansion clubs – Catalan, Crusaders and Harlequins – have already been guaranteed their places at the top table next year already, while you can make your own educated guesses at the others who won’t have any worries come decision day in July.
The three teams expected to be most at threat are Castleford, Salford and Wakefield, which makes last week’s announcement that the Wildcats are to invest in improving standards at Belle Vue even more interesting.
Of course, the existing Super League sides have long submitted their licence plans to the RFL, and Wakefield’s presumably centered around either a new ground, or the rumoured ground-share with Barnsley FC. This surely means that the new plans to re-develop Belle Vue can’t be taken in to consideration.
However, despite their trials and tribulations on and off the field, Wakefield are seemingly fighting hard not to let go of the Super League place that they have maintained since their promotion from the old Northern Ford Premiership in the late 1990s.
New owner Andrew Glover and chief executive James Elston aren’t giving up without a fight, and the likelihood of a 15-team Super League is surely increasing with every positive step they make.
Castleford’s on-pitch progress and thriving youth set-up makes their exclusion unlikely, even if they still haven’t made much progress on the ground promises that helped them retain their Super League place back in 2008.
Salford have finally got something to show with regards to the development of a stadium, following a decade of empty, unfulfilled promises.
So that leaves Wakefield vulnerable. They entered administration earlier in the year, although this misdemeanour has been mysteriously removed from the licensing criteria, coincidentally after Crusaders had similar troubles – Widnes fans will no doubt remember that administration was cited as the primary reason that they didn’t get the nod back in 2008.
But what will excluding the Wildcats achieve? Their proposed ground improvements probably won’t happen without Super League, nor will a new ground. A traditional club will no doubt drop in to the semi-professional wilderness, unlikely ever to be able to get in a position to make a return.
But by the same token, would allowing Wakefield a reprieve and denying Halifax their chance make a mockery of the licensing system? Halifax have probably been the best all-round team on the pitch in the Championship at least for the past three years, and they have invested in their facilities and standards, despite not boasting an academy set-up to write home about just yet.
With automatic promotion and relegation still way off the RFL agenda, there are some big off-field decisions to make. Fans will just have to sit tight and hope for the best come July 26.