#ORIGIN | Rick's weekly column looks at whether the dead rubber's worth the hassle - and if it is, w...
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Q: Why are you now introducing this Super League strategy
A: The strategy will bring many benefits for the engage Super League competition and for the sport at international, National League and grass roots levels. It will help engage Super League continue to grow and build and will support the many positives we are seeing in terms of the increasing number of young British players and coaches. Also the current system of promotion and relegation, presents difficulties for any club which is promoted to Super League and any relegated club. Basically neither can make long term rational decisions about their futures because of short term pressures placed on them by their change of circumstances. If we look at the experience of Leigh Centurions, it is clear that ? although they have performed admirably to date - they had an inappropriate amount of preparation time before the current season.
This contrasts with the 18 months that the UTC club are in the middle of in order to build-up to entry in 2006. This is build-up time is serving them well and helping them bring long term plans to fruition. Q: Is it right that promotion and relegation between the engage Super League and the LHF National League One is being scrapped?
A: Not in the short term. However, this strategy does set out a system in which admission to engage Super League and demotion from the competition will eventually not be based purely on how a club performs on the field. Q: But do these plans for the future mean that no LHF National League clubs will be able to gain entry into engage Super League after 2008?
A: Absolutely not. A central principle of the strategy is that all clubs will continue to have a clear pathway to fulfil their ambitions to compete at the highest level of the sport. But it does mean that winning a National League Grand Final will not be sufficient Q: What will happen at the end of the engage Super League competition this year then?
A: At the end of the current engage Super League season, the club that finishes bottom of the table (12th position) will definitely be relegated to LHF National League One. As previously confirmed this is to allow the entry of the French club UTC ?Les Catalans? for the 2006 season. The club that finishes in eleventh position will be relegated providing the winners of the LHF National League Grand Final fulfil the current criteria for promotion. These are the same criteria that have operated in recent seasons and relate to clubs? financial position and their standards of their stadium (Recently the RFL informed all LHF National League clubs of the work that needed to be carried out prior to 31st August 2005). Q: What will happen at the end of the engage Super League season in 2006 and 2007?
A: It is anticipated that the system of promotion and relegation between engage Super League and LHF National League One will continue in the same way as in 2005 although the promotion criteria will be reviewed year on year and may be amended. Q The strategy talks about a review of current engage Super League clubs in 2006. What does this mean?
A: An independent assessment of all engage Super League clubs playing standards, stadium and facilities, finance, management, marketing and administration. Clubs will be advised which areas they need to improve in. This whole process is fundamentally about clubs continuously improving. It is not about trapping clubs into failure. However, it is also important to note that clubs which continually under-perform and do not reach the standards required will jeopardise their place in the engage Super League in the long run. Q; When would a 14-team Super League kick-off then?
A; Certainly not before 2009 and only when there are 14 clubs in existence which have reached the required standards. What the RFL has done is set a series of targets and standards for existing engage Super League clubs and aspiring LHF National League clubs and potential new clubs. Now these targets have been set, the RFL will work towards identifying and working with clubs to assist their development. Above all though, it should be remembered that Super League will not be restricted into expanding into 14 clubs if this compromises the overall quality of the competition Q; So what will LHF National League clubs have to do to be considered as members of engage Super League
A; In simple terms they will have to be successful on and off the field. A LHF National League club will have to show that as well as having a successful and strong enough playing squad they have a vibrant administration and infrastructure. When they enter Super League they must be capable of making an impact in the competition and laying down a strong challenge. Q: How has news of this strategy been received by LHF National League clubs
A: The RFL has consulted LHF National League clubs and they are supportive of this more sophisticated and planned method of entry into the elite competition. They effectively now have a clear ?road map? to follow if they want to play at the top level and they are comfortable with that because they think it is the right thing to do for the whole of Rugby League. Q; Are you talking something away from Rugby League that is big tradition?
A: We believe that Rugby League in the future will be just as exciting if not more. The strengthening of clubs will mean that engage Super League becomes even more competitive and that the LHF National League can be highly attractive to a wide fan base. The emphasis on clubs improving their organisations means that the whole match day experience will be improved and become an even greater attraction for loyal and new supporters. A Rugby League match can stands on its own merits, on the game-day experience and the rivalry between the clubs. These factors will only get better
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for another great article.