CHAIRMAN Mark Campbell has released the following statement after a handful of Betfred Super League officials lined up alongside new chief executive Robert Elstone to unveil “radical changes”, which it has been claimed could signal the end of the current Super 8s format as early as this year.
Yesterday, at a press conference held at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Elstone and representatives of Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Warrington Wolves spoke of a desire to create a “better-funded elite competition”.
Those involved claimed Elstone’s alleged vision had the backing of 11 of 12 top-flight clubs, which has since been strongly refuted by Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington.
Rovers chairman Campbell, who despite acting as a key figure in the newly-formed Championship and League 1 advisory group, was unaware of plans for Super League to yesterday hold a press conference.
Campbell said: “At a meeting between the clubs, the Rugby Football League and Super League - less than one month ago - it was agreed no future plans would be discussed publicly until a solution was found for all concerned.
“So, as you can imagine, it was a huge shock to yesterday be informed that a press conference had in fact taken place. It was one thing to unveil Robert as Super League’s new chief executive but to make such bold and sweeping statements about the sport’s future was something else.
“Robert claims he has a desire to create a “positive working relationship with the RFL”. He has been in the job for two minutes and has already chosen to ignore the agreed consolation process which the RFL, Super League, Championship and League 1 is - or was - playing a part in. Perhaps Robert is just a puppet for Ian Lenagan.
“On Ian and some of his quite remarkable comments from yesterday, this is a man who is talking of “radical change” and the start of a new era. Going back to one up, one down. Re-introducing what we call ‘loop fixtures’ to essentially pad out a season. They are nothing more than a random lottery and have proven hugely controversial in the past. We have been there and done that. How is this radical change? If it was so good before then why was it changed to begin with?
“Did Brian Barwick, chairman of Super League and the RFL, know about yesterday’s press conference? If not, then why? If so, then why did the man at the top of the organisation not attend this alleged new beginning for elite rugby league? There must be a very good reason.
“Where is the RFL in all of this? It appears their so-called figureheads, one of which is supposed to be Brian, and spokespeople are all on holiday - given their total lack of response as a governing body.
“From where I am sitting, and the fact I am speaking on behalf of a challenging Championship club is irrelevant, this is about one man attempting to control the game - with the support of owners and chairpeople who are only interested in self preservation and, ultimately, clinging on to their existence.
“One of those clubs, in the town in which the sport was born and bred, is this week letting everyone in for free as an act of sheer desperation. Yet this club could survive, be rewarded for failure on and off the field, and continue to tick over in the top flight essentially free of charge. And all because of these “desired” changes.
“Those who sat at the top table yesterday and smiled for the cameras want the sport’s key stakeholders to believe this is for the 'good of the game'. Don’t make me laugh.
“When the current format was introduced, none of the Super League chairpeople believed a Championship club could even remotely challenge for a place in the top flight, based on central income in the second tier and overall revenue.
“However, because the gap has and will continue to narrow, there is a genuine possibility that four current Super League clubs could be relegated as early as this year. There is now too much on the line, hence the desire for immediate change to protect themselves and not the sport as a whole.
“The sport of rugby league, now more than ever before, needs its clubs and fans to rise and voice their opinions. This is quite possibly the most pivotal period in rugby league’s history and it would be an out-and-out disgrace for three or four chairpeople to be able to take the sport apart.”