Robert Elstone’s first week as the new Super League CEO has been highly controversial after he announced proposals to scrap the Super 8s system.
Super League chiefs seized control of their own destiny at an extraordinary general meeting last November by successfully overthrowing former Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood from the board.
Their next step was to appoint their own chief executive and they took the opportunity at the unveiling of Elstone on Tuesday to announce plans for another major restructure of the game with the scrapping of the Super 8s.
This has not gone down well in some areas, with Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington and Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell leading the way in slamming the decision.
“At a meeting between the clubs, the Rugby Football League and Super League – less than one month ago – it was agreed no future plans would be discussed publicly until a solution was found for all concerned,” read Campbell’s statement.
“So, as you can imagine, it was a huge shock to yesterday [Tuesday] to be informed that a press conference had in fact taken place. It was one thing to unveil Robert as Super League’s new chief executive but to make such bold and sweeping statements about the sport’s future was something else.
“Robert claims he has a desire to create a “positive working relationship with the RFL”. He has been in the job for two minutes and has already chosen to ignore the agreed consolation process which the RFL, Super League, Championship and League 1 is – or was – playing a part in. Perhaps Robert is just a puppet for Ian Lenagan.”
0:46 Super League CEO Robert Elstone and Wigan owner Ian Lenagan discuss changes to promotion and relegation that will see the end of the Super 8s.
However, Elstone denies this and says that have agreed in principle to support the Championship clubs.
“The notion of being a puppet is absolutely wrong – I would not have given up an amazing job at Everton to be anyone s puppet,” Elston said on the Golden Point podcast.
“I am determined to do everything I can to drive the game forward in the best interest of the game and fundamentally the best interest of Super League because I think that is the future flagship of the game.
“We have also consulted extensively with the RFL and there have been some agreements in principle about what we are prepared to do for the Championships clubs in terms of funding, in terms of a form of promotion and relegation.
“It all needed rubber stamping – was that the time and the pace? The fans and the press were waiting for a decision on this so we took the decision to let people know what was happening there and then.”
Elstone also came under fire from Hetherington who has called on RFL Chairman Brian Barwick to take action on what he calls the ‘rebels’.
“I have known Gary a long time so I was disappointed, added Elstone. “Not only with what he said, but also with the timing of it.
“Leeds are a fantastic club and have achieved a great deal under his leadership. The sport needs Leeds to be firing and prospering and I am sure they will continue to do that.
“All I can hope is that we deliver what we are promising to deliver – sitting here with a great vision and some great statements is relatively easy, but we want to deliver; and if we deliver then I am sure Leeds will come with us. If they don’t, then that is down to them.
“I always say that unanimity in sport is a real rare thing. When the Premier League was formed 25-26 years ago by six or seven really brave clubs there was no way in the world 22 division one clubs were racing to come and join them, you don’t get unanimity in sport and you need to do it but proving that you can deliver.
Elstone believes that Super League is a fantastic product and is hoping to bring back the glitz and glamour of the early Super League years.
“We need to reinvigorate the game and recapturing the early days of Super League when it was new and fresh,” said Elstone.
“They were special moments and when we were living up to all the hype – that mantra of a ‘great day out’ and ‘great entertainment’ are easy but we need to live up to it.
“It’s a sad indictment that outside of our heartland, if you ask people to name three famous rugby league players, they can’t. Our games are about stars. I spoke to Maurice Lindsay (Super League architect and Former RFL chief executive) who and he said our game is all about dreams and it is all about players.
“He is right and we have to invest in those players.”
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