Super League clubs have been warned by Rugby Football League’s new chief executive Ralph Rimmer that they face a battle to push through their planned shake-up of the domestic game.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan, with the backing of the vast majority of Super League clubs, announced in June at the unveiling of Robert Elstone as the competition’s new chief executive that the Super 8s would be scrapped in 2019 in favour of a one-up, one-down system of promotion and relegation.
However, that brought a stinging response from Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington, who accused the breakaway group of acting without authority in a brazen attempt at a power grab, and Rimmer told a media briefing in Manchester yesterday that the RFL retain the power of veto.
“I’m talking to Robert Elstone on a regular basis, as are all the frontline team at the RFL,” said Rimmer, who made it clear the game is tied to a television contract for another three years and the governing body would make a decision for the benefit of the whole of rugby league.
“The structure cannot change and neither can the levels of distribution until 2021, unless it’s with the support of the RFL board.
“The RFL needs to be positioned in a way where they make a decision in the best interest of the game.
“We’ve got three years to explore the possibilities, but another year of instability would be damaging.”
Although the idea of a restructure was raised at Wednesday’s annual meeting of the RFL Council, there was no resolution and Rimmer admits there is no immediate prospect of an end to rugby league’s civil war.
“It’s a more complicated equation; the league structure is simply part of something wider,” he said. “I get the fact there are frustrations it’s not sorted as of yet. If we have to wait a couple of weeks longer than expected before it’s resolved then, in the long run, that will be far better.
“We’re in a critical period in rugby league history at this time because of the changes in the landscape and we have to make sure we do the right things that take us to 2021 and beyond.
“We have some internal deadlines at the RFL, but I don’t think it’s of much benefit to share them externally.”