Super League boss Robert Elstone admits: "We're playing too many games and it needs to change"

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone addresses the media at Super League's play-off launch. (PIC: Simon Wilkinson; SWPIX)Super League chief executive Robert Elstone addresses the media at Super League's play-off launch. (PIC: Simon Wilkinson; SWPIX)
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone addresses the media at Super League's play-off launch. (PIC: Simon Wilkinson; SWPIX)
SUPER LEAGUE chief executive Robert Elstone feels the competition has suffered from “fixture fatigue” this season and he will be pushing hard to ensure fewer games are played in the future.
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To get to this point, the dozen clubs have played 29 matches: routine home and away games plus Magic Weekend and the controversial ‘loop’ fixtures where they play some opponents on three occasions.

Plenty of critics would argue it has been far from a vintage season, with leaders St Helens finishing a record 16 points in front of the rest, and it has inevitably added strength to the argument that too much rugby league is being played.

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Elstone concurred and said: “The calendar is too long and there were some serious looks at shortening it.

“There's a feeling that we needed to run with it for 2020 but have a more serious look at 2021.

“My own view is that there are too many games and there was a certain fixture fatigue towards the back end of the season and we should take that out.

“Ultimately, it’s down to Super League and the clubs that really believe in it to prove that less is more, that it is more about quality than quantity and that the commercial impact of going to less will be a positive impact rather than a negative one.

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“We still haven’t quite won that battle but it is something I will continue to push as I do think we’re playing too many games.”

That said, as the top-five clubs now make their final bid for Old Trafford, Elstone insisted it had been a “really good” season in the top-flight.

“We couldn't have scripted it better and we had the good fortune of Thursday and Friday when four teams could have gone down,” he added.

“But we set up a more straightforward fixture list which the game really wanted and needed.

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“The changes we've made have paid off, and the focus now turns to the play-offs. It'll be hard to predict and on their day, I think any of the five teams can win it.”

Challenge Cup holders Warrington Wolves, who finished fourth, kick things off when they host fifth-placed Castleford Tigers in Thursday’s eliminator play-off before Wigan Warriors host Salford Red Devils in a qualifying tie the following night.

At the same time, of course, Championship leaders Toronto Wolfpack are intent on earning the solitary promotion spot to replace London Broncos who were relegated at the weekend.

Elstone conceded Super League and the RFL are still seeking assurances the Canadian outfit will meet minimum standards for entry - but any decision will be made before the Championship play-off final.

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“If Toronto win the right to be promoted then they have to meet minimum standards,” he said.

“We're talking to the RFL about what those standards look like, and we're seeking a number of assurances from them.

“We're still in dialogue with the RFL and it's important we get assurances well before promotion is secured on the pitch.

“It's a dialogue which started in July and we're getting close to an understanding on where they are as a club.

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“What we can't do is make the decision after promotion on the pitch, it has to be done in advance of that."

French side Toulouse Olympique are also in the running for promotion.

Elstone added: “Toulouse will be asked to comply with minimum standards but there are a number of different concerns and issues relating to Toronto.

“There are some things we're seeking answers on that we don't feel we need to with Toulouse.

“That's not to say there's an anti-Toronto agenda, but the circumstances are different.”