Super League should return to the franchise system

06 May 20, 12:20PM 0 Comments

Written by Callum Walker

Photo by Super League

With a majority of Super League clubs favouring the removal of relegation from the current season, it’s led to some calls for the abolishment of promotion and relegation altogether and a return to the licensing system which was shelved in 2014. But, would this work?

Conventional promotion and relegation was reinstated to make things fairer for those sides that were on the brink of Super League, but wouldn’t be able to clear their way through the criteria to become a top tier club. The rules would effectively be clear: finish bottom of Super League, get relegated; finish top of the second tier, earn promotion. It would reward success and punish failure – like most of the other major sporting competitions.

This can have its own problems tho. Teams that begin to yo-yo between leagues end up suffering: Leigh had major financial issues after their relegation from Super League in 2017, whilst questions over Toronto’s viability following a potential exit from the top tier has also been brought into the limelight.

Is such an uncertain future for a multitude of teams the right way to go about it? If a number of other criteria were also critical in becoming and staying a Super League side, including how well the business was run, then it may well lead to more stable outcomes. Of course, those sides in the Championship would feel aggrieved – and rightly so.

What’s the point in spending a season in Super League, only to realise that the structures and developments necessary to become a long-term top-tier side are not actually there? Yes, it’s great to be amongst the so-called big boys for a year, but the results can often be greatly detrimental in the long run.

Widnes, for example, were relegated in 2018 after battling financial issues and then ended up finishing 11th in the Championship in 2019 following the deduction of 12 points for entering administration. A more in-depth analysis of the Vikings’ finances each year in some kind of franchise system could have brought their struggles to light much more quickly and perhaps even alleviated the end predicament they found themselves in.

By encouraging good business and setups through living within your means, a franchise system could restrict overspending and push clubs to achieving that savvy business sense that they should have had all along.

Perhaps if promotion and relegation were included in such a system where the promoted side had to have the finances to cope with the added strain of Super League and then a potential relegation in their first season, both systems could operate together.

Licensing didn’t work last time because the rules were bent to keep the then-named Celtic Crusaders in Super League. It wasn’t the system which was broke, it was the people running it. Under much more strict guidance, there’s no reason why the system that works so well in the NRL, cannot work for Super League.

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