CLUBS in the Kingstone Press Championships will today finally decide on promotion and relegation issues for this season onwards – and chances are they WILL give York City Knights the opportunity to bounce straight back up.
Today’s meeting in Featherstone is part of the Rugby Football League’s policy review process, which is overseeing the major restructuring of professional rugby league.
It has already been confirmed that, from 2015, the controversial new “2x12 into 3x8” system will be implemented in a new-look Super League and Championship.
This means two clubs must be relegated from the 14-team Super League at the end of 2014, which in turn means four must be relegated from the 14-team Championship, to make for two leagues of 12.
It appears likely today’s meeting will agree for a fifth club to go down to Championship One, allowing one club to go up via a probable top-five play-off system.
If confirmed, this would finally end fears the Knights had, following relegation last year, that there would be no promotion place at all this term due to the restructure.
Other options were for the league leaders in the nine-team Championship One to go straight up, or for the Championship One play-offs to include teams from the Championship.
Knights chairman John Guildford said to have no pathway back up would be ludicrous.
“It’s very important that Championship One clubs like us have a way to go up,” he said. “It gives us all something to play for and if it’s through play-offs it gives us something to play for to the very end.”
Today’s meeting should also confirm the promotion and relegation system between the tiers from 2015 onwards, when the Championship reduces to 12 teams and Championship One increases to 13, perhaps 14 if a new club comes in.
Funding issues will also be thrashed out, although a final decision on how much each club is to be awarded from 2015 onwards was unlikely to be agreed today due to continued wrangles in Super League and knock-on effects of the new television deal with Sky.
Currently, Super League clubs get about £1.2 million each from central funding, with Championship outfits getting £90,000 and Championship One clubs £70,000.
Under the RFL’s policy review suggestions, which have been amended due to the TV deal, the 12 Super League clubs from 2015 onwards would receive £1,825,000 each next year, while figures for Championship clubs vary depending on finishing positions.
The two relegated from Super League would get £788,000 and £787,000, while the top two in the Championship would get £550,000 and £500,000.
The next two would get £200,000, the next two £175,000, and the next three, plus the one promoted team, £150,000.
Championship One clubs, including those relegated from the Championship in 2014, would get £75,000.
The sliding scale in the Championship is to be retained from then on, the idea being that it makes it easier for the leading teams to challenge Super League clubs in the “middle eight” of the new “2x12 into 3x8” system.
This new system begins with two leagues of 12 playing 23 rounds of matches.
At the end of it, the top eight in Super League continue their season, playing each other once more, to see who goes into top-four play-offs for the title, while the bottom eight in the Championship continue theirs to see who gets relegated to Championship One.
The middle eight – the bottom four in Super League and top four in the Championship – start a mini-season, playing each other once. The top three go into Super League the following season, with teams four and five playing off for the last Super League spot. The others go into the Championship.
Previously, the financial gap from part-time Championship to full-time Super League was deemed too big to make promotion feasible.
That gap will now be much smaller, but critics say it remains sizeable – meaning Super League clubs are still unlikely to end up relegated via the “middle eight” – while also claiming the new system creates a Championship of haves and have-nots.