YORK City Knights boss Gary Thornton has welcomed today’s news that his team now have a clear pathway to promotion.
The Press revealed on Thursday that clubs in the Championships were poised to agree a one-off promotion and relegation format for 2014 in the wake of professional rugby league’s restructuring.
And it has now been confirmed there will be a promotion place available from Championship One through a top-five play-off. Five teams will come down from the Championship.
Thornton, whose grand final aspirations will also have been boosted by his team’s performance in a 24-18 defeat by Championship champions Sheffield yesterday, said: “It’s fantastic news for clubs like us in that division, that we can now go up.
“It’s not been clear what the pathway would be, if indeed there would be one. This gives us something to aim for and play for and plan towards. We were hoping this would be the decision and I’m delighted it has come about.”
This format will only be in place in 2014, ahead of the new-look structure from 2015 onwards.
Both Super League and the Championship are to reduce from 14 teams to 12 at the end of this season. Two teams will come down from the top tier, and five will be relegated from the Championship, allowing for one to go up via Championship One’s grand final.
There had been suggestions that nobody would go up at the end of this season and only four would come down, or alternatively that clubs in the Championship would be involved in the Championship One play-offs.
Thornton added: “We’ve now got a massive season ahead of us to make sure we get in the play-offs – and to win them.
The Championship retains a top-eight play-off system for the title this season, but it will be all change next year.
As reported, a new “2x12 into 3x8” format from 2015 onwards will see both Super League and the Championship begin with 12 clubs and complete a full home-and-away season.
The top eight at the end of these fixtures will continue their season to compete for the Super League title via a top-four play-off, while the bottom eight in the Championship will continue theirs to avoid relegation to Championship One.
The middle eight – the bottom four in Super League and the top four in the Championship – will play a mini-league to decide who should compete in Super League the following season.
Championship One by then will comprise 13 clubs, perhaps 14 if another expansion club come in. It has not been confirmed how many clubs will be promoted from Championship One to the Championship from 2015 onwards, but it is likely that there will be two up and two down.
RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer said: “The return of promotion and relegation across the three top divisions from 2015 has been welcomed by everyone and the Championships clubs remain enthusiastic about the new structures that will deliver a fully integrated competition.”
The handouts each club will get from the Rugby Football League’s central funds, as reported in The Press, was likely to be confirmed at today’s Championships season launch in Manchester.
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.
As of 2015, the 12 Super League clubs are set to receive £1.825 million each year, while figures for Championship clubs vary depending on finishing positions.
The two relegated from Super League will get £788,000 and £787,000, while the top two in the Championship get £550,000 and £500,000. The next two 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, will get £75,000.
The salary cap for Championship clubs is also set to rise to £1 million, albeit only if the club has a turnover of at least £2.5 million.