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Knights ‘unaffected’ – but clubs need to know structure ASAP
YORK City Knights boss Gary Thornton has urged rugby league chiefs to decide on the professional game’s restructuring as soon as possible – even though he believes his own club is not overly affected by the new delay.
An extraordinary general meeting of the RL Council was due to be held yesterday to decide on the top tiers’ new promotion and relegation format for 2015.
But it was sensationally called off earlier in the week after it emerged Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan, just hours before his team completed the double by winning the Super League Grand Final, had called for an urgent meeting between Super League clubs to discuss – and reject – the Rugby Football League’s policy review.
Thornton says he cannot comment on the apparent power struggle at the domestic game’s summit, but he believes it is of paramount importance for clubs below Super League to know where they stand in order to plan for 2014. They are now unlikely to know until after the Rugby League World Cup ends on November 30.
“The concern we at York City Knights have got is about the pathway out of Championship One,” he said, alluding to his club’s relegation from the Championship. “We don’t want to be stuck there, and we’ve had positive word that there will be a pathway between Championship One and the Championship next year, as there was this year.
“Even if the overall restructure does not get approved, that’s what we’re looking to do – to get promoted back up – and I don’t think this delay will change our approach.
“Our objective remains the same – to get back into that second tier, regardless of what it’s called.
“However, no one will know the overall new structure before the World Cup now – the excuse is they want to concentrate on that – and I do think there needs to be a decision sooner rather than later.
“It might not be made now until Christmas, and where does that leave people a month or two before the season starts?
“Championship clubs are more in limbo than anybody. A lot of their planning will have taken place and budgets sorted out in an attempt to work their way up (be it through straight promotion or the RFL’s controversial plans to start the season with two top divisions of 12 before splitting them into three eights after 23 rounds). This delay impacts on them more than us as they don’t know which pathway, if any, will be there.”
Lenagan’s slating remarks about the RFL’s perceived failures has been described as an attempt to wrest control of the sport and specifically the main television revenues, but the Wigan chief did say he wanted promotion and relegation to return to the top tier as soon as next season, allaying fears a new-look franchise system might be in the offing.
“I don’t know the full facts (on Lenagan’s assertions) so can’t comment,” added Thornton. “But it seems to me the Super League clubs haven’t fully explored all options, in which case promotion and relegation (to Super League) might yet be up in the air.
“For York City Knights, we want to see there’s something for us to aim for, some way of progression to be able to play at the highest level we can. Both systems (promotion/relegation and franchise) have pros and cons. Promotion gives you something to achieve but I understand there are pitfalls if clubs chase the dream and get into financial difficulties, so I can see why it’s taken so long to sort out.”
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