Featherstone Rovers hit out at Toronto Wolfpack decision - and demand promotion to Super League in 2021

Rovers' James Harrison tackles Bodene Thompson, of Toronto, in last year's Championship Grand Final. Picture by Vaughn Ridley/SWpix.com.Rovers' James Harrison tackles Bodene Thompson, of Toronto, in last year's Championship Grand Final. Picture by Vaughn Ridley/SWpix.com.
Rovers' James Harrison tackles Bodene Thompson, of Toronto, in last year's Championship Grand Final. Picture by Vaughn Ridley/SWpix.com.
Featherstone Rovers chairman Mark Campbell has come out punching ahead of today’s crucial meeting which will decide the format for Betfred Super League next year.

Top-flight clubs yesterday (Monday) voted not to allow Toronto Wolfpack back into the competition for 2021 after the Canadian outfit withdrew from the current competition in July.

They are meeting again today to decide whether to continue with 11 clubs next year or return to the 12-club format under which the current season began.

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Campbell blasted the vote to exclude Toronto and also turned his fire on the clubs and governing body.

The Rovers chairman insists the competition will lose its “integrity” if it runs with 11 clubs next year - and says Rovers should be promoted as the 12th team.

In a statement issued by Rovers, Campbell said: “First of all, we are extremely disappointed to see this unfortunate situation happen with the Toronto Wolfpack.

“We feel it’s a missed opportunity for rugby league and we hope that when the world gets over this pandemic they can rise again stronger.

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“Everyone at Featherstone thoroughly enjoyed our encounters with Toronto over the previous two years and nobody wants to see this happen to any club. “

Campbell added: “Unfortunately, this outcome is the product of a self-interested league and a toothless governing body which is powered by the clubs within it and the sport is currently at risk at being dictated by its elite sides, closing the doors to ambitious clubs at other levels.

“Two years ago, when the Super League broke away from the RFL, we as a club, fought tooth and nail for the RFL to keep their power as it was obvious to everyone in the game what would happen once the power was handed to the individual clubs and not the governing body.

“The RFL were at the time architects in their own demise as they manipulated and bullied clubs to vote in favour of Super League.

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“We expressed our concerns at the time, and these concerns have been proven to be true with this week’s vote.

“I find it disturbing that the sport has found itself in a position where the RFL, the sport’s governing body, has the same voting power as just one Super League club.

“How can the game grow with this unjustifiable system of clubs having the power to determine the other clubs’ futures and the format of our elite competition?”

Rovers lost to Toronto in last year’s promotion-deciding Betfred Championship Grand Final, but were unbeaten when the 2020 competition was halted in March.

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Their partner club, Leeds Rhinos, were one of three who - alongside the RFL - voted for Wolfpack to be readmitted.

Of the meeting today, Campbell said: “I sincerely hope that the correct decision is made.

“The game needs to retain its integrity and ensure a 12-team Super League will start in 2021.

“If the clubs vote for an 11-team competition this will be another nail in the rugby league coffin, which will result in more and more supporters walking away from the game in a year we should all be looking forward to, especially with the UK hosting the upcoming World Cup.

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“It seems that a majority of the current 11 Super League sides’ primary focus lies with safeguarding their own central distribution and although adding a 12th side to the league would preserve the integrity of the division, it would mean these clubs having to share income with a new side.

“If this is their priority the game is at a very low point.

“If the Super League is to become an 11 team division for 2021, it shows that the RFL holds little influence over the teams currently still in the Super League, who can feel free to act in their own self-interest and refuse a 12th participant to cement their place in the elite competition for another year without the risk of relegation, despite the TV contract for a 12-team competition.

“We hope that the Super League sides, alongside the RFL, come up with the correct decision and show some leadership, by ensuring a 12th team competes in the 2021 Super League, whoever that may be.

“Promotion to Super League should be decided on the pitch and not in a boardroom. On that basis, Featherstone Rovers has earnt the right to be the 12th team in the 2021 Super League season.”