RFL and Super League in talks over rugby league’s structure

The Rugby Football League insists no decision has yet been made on another restructure of the domestic game.

New Super League chief executive Robert Elstone was unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday and declared his intention to scrap the Super 8s after four years.

But the RFL says talks with Super League are ongoing over the sport’s structure from 2019.

Chairman Brian Barwick and interim chief executive Ralph Rimmer said in a joint statement: “The Rugby Football League has been in discussions with representatives of the Super League since the turn of the year.

“We have been in regular and broadly constructive meetings with them and Championship and League 1 clubs about potential changes that could strengthen our sport going forward.

“We would like to make clear that these discussions are still ongoing. No binding decisions have been made across a range of issues, including competition structure, but progress is being made. Further meetings are expected to take place between all parties in due course.

“As would be expected the Rugby Football League board has played a leading role in all of these discussions and will continue to do so.

“Our ambition, as the sport’s governing body, is to have the strongest Super League possible while also ensuring all other elements of the game have the opportunity to flourish.”

0:46 Elstone and Wigan owner Ian Lenagan discuss changes to promotion and relegation that will see the end of the Super 8s

Former Everton chief executive Elstone appeared alongside Wigan owner Ian Lenagan, St Helens chairman Eamon McManus and Warrington co-owner Simon Moran – three of the protagonists behind the major shake-up – at his unveiling.

The 54-year-old has received public backing from clubs across Super League, with Leeds the only dissenting voice against the proposals.

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Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has called on Barwick to take strong action against the “rebels” and has been backed by a number of Championship and League 1 clubs.

Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell is the latest to hit out at the game’s leading figures.

He said: “From where I am sitting, and the fact I am speaking on behalf of a challenging Championship club is irrelevant, this is about one man attempting to control the game – with the support of owners and chairpeople who are only interested in self-preservation and, ultimately, clinging on to their existence.

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“Those who sat at the top table on Tuesday and smiled for the cameras want the sport’s key stakeholders to believe this is for the ‘good of the game’. Don’t make me laugh.

“Because the gap has and will continue to narrow, there is a genuine possibility that four current Super League clubs could be relegated as early as this year. There is now too much on the line, hence the desire for immediate change to protect themselves and not the sport as a whole.

“The sport of rugby league, now more than ever before, needs its clubs and fans to rise and voice their opinions. This is quite possibly the most pivotal period in rugby league’s history and it would be an out-and-out disgrace for three or four chairpeople to be able to take the sport apart.”

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