Leeds Rhinos: Headingley chief Hetherington unhappy with league changes – but says Leeds accept them

Jimmy Keinhorst scores leeds' second try in the win over Salford.
Jimmy Keinhorst scores leeds' second try in the win over Salford.
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LEEDS RHINOS are committed to making Betfred Super League “bigger and better” next year, despite having opposed changes to the competition’s structure.

A meeting of the Rugby Football League (RFL) council yesterday voted 68 per cent in favour of scrapping the Super-8s format after this year and replacing it with a one-up, one-down system of automatic promotion and relegation between the Championship and top-flight.

Gary Hetherington

Gary Hetherington

The 12 Super League clubs will play each other once home and away next year, plus six additional ‘loop’ fixtures – facing some teams a third time – and the Magic Weekend. The champions will be decided after play-offs involving the top-five.

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington, speaking ahead of last night’s dramatic 18-16 Qualifiers win over Salford Red Devils, was a passionate backer of the eights and Leeds voted against the change, which was backed by most Super League clubs.

He believes the vote will have a “potentially big impact on clubs and the professional game now and in the future” and outlined Rhinos’ opposition.

“Firstly, we don’t believe automatic promotion and relegation and the return of loop fixtures offers the best option for our competition,” he said.

“Secondly, we believe the whole process has been rushed into without proper consultation, research and debate.

“Third, we are very concerned with what we believe to be the inability of the RFL board of directors to take ownership of the governance of our sport.

“In our view the RFL performed poorly throughout the whole process and simply acted as a mediator between Super League and the Championship/Division One clubs, rather than providing the leadership and direction our sport requires.”

Super League clubs had two votes, with lower division sides – minus Toronto and Toulouse – having one each and seven going to the community game.

“I think 19 clubs voted for and 16 clubs probably voted against,” Hetherington said.

“That’s democracy and Leeds Rhinos will be focusing on doing our best to make Super League bigger and better in 2019.”

The Championship will be expanded to 14 clubs next year, with this season’s League One leaders being promoted along with the winners of play-offs between the second to fifth-placed clubs. The final place will be decided by a one-off tie between the play-offs final losers and the team finishing bottom of the Championship.