LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington has condemned plans to re-structure the domestic game and called for RFL chairman Brian Barwick to take strong action.
His outburst follows comments made earlier on Tuesday at a press conference to formally introduce the new chief executive for Super League, Robert Elstone.
At that press conference St Helens chairman Eammon McManus revealed there were plans to change the structure of the domestic game from 2019.
“We don’t believe the Super 8s work,” said McManus. “We do not believe it is producing the right commercial returns. We have to conclude a new structure to put in place for next year.”
His remarks prompted a fierce response from Hetherington who, in a statement, said: “Today’s announcement regarding plans for next season appear to be an absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game.
“Leeds Rhinos are not party to this and are totally against the creation of a separate Super League executive. Super League clubs voted seven to five at our last meeting on some key issues related to promotion and relegation.
Today’s announcement regarding plans for next season appear to be an absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game.Gary Hetherington
“The game is in need of strong leadership from Brian Barwick and his Board of Directors at the Rugby Football League, the games governing body, and this announcement should bring a response from everyone connected with the game.”
Elstone was appointed by the Super League clubs following an extra general meeting last October when they voted Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood off the board. Wigan owner Ian Lenagan told the press conference the move did not amount to a breakaway.
“We are not in any way breaking away from the RFL,” Lenagan said. “The RFL is the governing body for rugby league. What we have done is taken responsibility for commercial activity to give the top tier the focus it should have. We believe it is very important that the sole focus is on Super League.”
Lenagan, who revealed that Leeds Rhinos are the sole dissenting voice, said the Super League board remains committed to promotion and relegation.
Former Everton chief executive Elstone had earlier spoken of his passion for rugby league after being formally introduced.
The 54-year-old Barnsley-born Elstone took his new job eight days ago and held his first press conference at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“This is the only job that would have taken me away from Everton,” he said. “I’ve loved rugby league from the first day I can remember. I care passionately about this sport.”