St. Helens give backing and support to new league structure

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21st January 2014

ST.HELENS have stated their strong conviction that the newly agreed league structure, to be adopted in 2015, will benefit supporters, players, clubs and the wider game alike and will lead to a new era of sporting excitement and financial stability and prosperity for the game at all levels.

St.Helens Chairman, Eamonn McManus stated:

We have been wholly supportive of this new system from its formal tabling some months ago, which followed a year of analysis and detailed discussion. Supporters, Super League clubs and the wider game should all benefit significantly and in equal measure.

Over the last decade, I have been openly sceptical of some of the major commercial and strategic decisions adopted by Super League and endorsed by its clubs. There is no doubt that expansion to 14 clubs and the adoption of the Licensing system with expanded playoffs produced a season where the league has become somewhat of a protracted precursor only to the playoffs.

Every game every week must be of high quality, important and competitive: the current system is capable of improvement on all of those fronts. Under the new system, the reduction to 12 teams and the splitting of the league season into two phases, culminating in a short and sharp playoffs, will provide interest and excitement for fans of every club every week. The season will be of continuous quality and intensity and will gradually build throughout and into a fantastic climax at Old Trafford.

There is no doubt that it will also provide a very strong foundation to the critical strengthening of the clubs' and the game's commercial performances and financial positions. It will also provide a compelling attraction to sponsors at every level. This should in turn ultimately be reflected in a materially improved media valuation which will further benefit the clubs and the game. There have been too many financial crises at club levels in recent years. The new system, with its consequent real and significant benefits to all, will produce meaningful financial benefits and ensure stability. We can then approach our future with clarity and with confidence.

I certainly do not agree that the new system is too radical and complex. It is a solution tailored to the particular strengths and weaknesses of professional rugby league in England today. Although new, it is readily understandable and is certainly much more straightforward than the current playoff system which was zealously agreed to by most Super League clubs five years ago.

I also believe that the new system of possible promotion and relegation addresses the problems historically encountered by the system of automatic promotion and relegation which was so harmful to clubs when previously adopted: then the promoted club never had the time or resources to prepare adequately to compete in Super League, and the relegated club was more often than not subsequently decimated.

In 2015, a possible promoted club from the Championship will have to prove itself, in terms of investment and playing strength, that it is better than an existing Super League club in the season before promotion. By definition it will be ready to compete in Super League if it wins promotion, and vice versa.

No system is perfect, but this one produces the most benefits for Super League and its supporters at this point in our history and evolution. We have a year to prepare for it and, if constructively received and professionally launched, I am sure that it will herald an era of improved excitement for spectators and of financial stability for clubs and players, which will be the envy of other sports.

It has been clear to me for many months that, under the new Chairmanship of Brian Barwick, the game's recent problems and issues are being properly identified, addressed and dealt with and that he is adding a real and professional focus and direction to the senior management of both the RFL and of Super League.

The RFL have hosted and delivered a magnificent and successful World Cup which made us all proud to be rugby league supporters in this country. This is now being followed promptly by implementing strategic and structural changes which will provide a more exciting and competitive professional league system. In turn, this will be reflected in a better funded and financially stable game which should be self-sustaining at all levels in the long term. Brian and his senior management teams deserve our full support as we move towards a new and exciting era for us all. We all have much to look forward to.