National League Clubs split over
ESL changes

National League One (NL1) clubs have had a mixed response to news that the RFL will modify promotion and relegation procedures for the ESL. Rugby Football League boss Richard Lewis recently announced that the current promotion-relegation system will be scrapped in 2009, with NL1 teams having to fulfill a range of financial and performance criteria in order to be considered for promotion. Such promotion will be less frequent with all ESL teams to be guaranteed 3 year ?licences?.

NL1 teams are considered to have the most to lose from this decision as it provides a further barrier to them entering the potentially lucrative Superleague competition. Some teams, such as Oldham and Whitehaven have likened the RFLs decision to the construction of a glass ceiling, virtually impregnable for lower league clubs.

What has been surprising is that some NL1 clubs have strongly supported the move. Featherstone believe the new criteria will ensure that admission to the ESL is still viable. They have argued in recent press that clear financial criteria will provide NL1 clubs with something to aspire to, and believe it will encourage controlled growth, rather than clubs throwing money at their team for short term success.

Castleford, which has dealt with the financial strain of relegation this season, also supports a more dynamic promotion-relegation system. Chief Executive Richard Wright concedes the benefit of providing a newly promoted club with time to prove their worth in the competition, both on and off the field. He recently told the Yorkshire Post ?(The current system)?is destabilizing for clubs at the bottom and hard for the club that?s promoted to be competitive and build their business in a very short space of time?

What NL1 clubs will not doubt agree on is that the next 3 years will be full of passion and heartbreak as current lower league teams attempt to be promoted into Superleague whilst promotion is still relatively easy to achieve.