Written by John Davidson
Super League is hoping to be back playing games behind closed doors in July, but executive chairman Robert Elstone admits promotion and relegation this year is likely to be scrapped.
Super League has been shut down since mid-March because of the Coronavirus. Elstone is hoping his competition can use the successful return of the English Premier League, which is planning to return on June 12, as a model to adopt and embrace.
“The Premier League will charter a path that we can hopefully follow,” Elstone told Sky Sports’ Golden Point podcast.
“At the moment we are hopeful that it will July, but it seems to me like this thing [the Coronavirus] is changing all the time…. Covid has really hit the sport hard economically.”
Unlike Premier League football though, Elstone conceded Super League will not have the financial resources to test every player for the disease every 48 hours.
Elstone indicated it is likely promotion and relegation will not take place this year, with Catalans Dragons and Toronto Wolfpack unable to play home games for some months.
“It appears to me, even at this state, that relegation from Super League is not going to be a fair and equitable proposition for Super League clubs,” he said.
“It wouldn’t feel right to do that. It seems very like to me that will arrive at that point in the near future. That clearly has a knock-on effect on promotion.
“My belief is that for all those conditions, our uncertainties and compromise applies to Super League, such that it’s unrealistic and unfair to relegate, then that to be mirrored into the Championship.
“So it would be unrealistic and unfair to promote a team into Super League in 2021. We have to talk to the RFL about that, that’s not a unilateral decision for Super League.
“But the way this is looking, it would seem in the very near future those two issues may well fall away. That’s my personal view.”
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“The government support has been invaluable and incredibly timely because that uncertainly is plaguing all decision-making, so the government support at least buys us some time,” Elstone said.
“It doesn’t take away all our problems. [But] Massive credit in terms of the RFL in getting that support that has given us a little security.
“That loan is a way to compensate clubs for games they’re losing, games they might play ultimately behind closed doors, so it’s a fund of money and a request for funding that’s been base don an estimate of what that loss might be.
“Even then you had the imponderables about how long this will go on, and at some point, there has to be a line drawn by government, by funders, by partners.
“And that really means it’s really important that we can get up and running with some rugby league, inevitably behind closed doors as soon as possible.”
Elstone admitted that Super League’s salary cap of £2.1 million could be reduced in the future, because of the financial burden, but no decision has been made as of yet.
“It’s too early to say what the long-term future is in terms of its value,” he said.
“We need to look closely now what will 2021 will look like and if we can play rugby league with crowds.
“If we can keep hold of our partners… there may be some impairment in 2021 that we need to adjust… [But ] it’s critical we maintain an exciting product.”
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