Rugby league's calendar and competition structures under review

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer is ready to "roll the dice" after admitting the game cannot afford to stand still as he prepares to lead a strategic working party examining ways to take it forward.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 11:51 am
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 11:52 am
Will the Magic Weekend stay as it is, or change as part of the game's review?

The working party has been established with a remit to examine the game's calendar and competition structures and to identify a strategic partner to support the delivery of its recommendations.

Rimmer is joined on the panel by the RFL's chief regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse and high-ranking Super League officials Gary Hetherington (Leeds), Paul Lakin (Hull KR), Eamonn McManus (St Helens) and Stuart Middleton (Warrington).

In a media briefing, Rimmer defended the make-up of the group, which contains no representatives from either the Championship or League One or any personnel from outside the game.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Rimmer, who says the club representatives were put forward by Super League, is confident the RFL will look after the interests of the non-Super League clubs and says coaches and players will be included as part of a wide-ranging consultation process.

"Our discussions on strategy have extended to the GMB and the England performance unit and they've been to the coaches' forum as well," said Rimmer, who says the recommendations will be open to external scrutiny.

"That strategy touches everybody and there will be more input before we get to the right place.

"The restructure has to be right. Everybody is trying to grab that space. You look at women's sport and the way it's grabbing space at the moment and you have to be part of that movement.

"There are only so many hours of TV people can put out and will pay for so standing still is not an option, it absolutely isn't.

"I do think this is a big roll of the dice and what I want, that extra validation on whatever it might be."

The strategic working party is separate to the group created to oversee a re-alignment of the two governing bodies following Super League's breakaway from the RFL in 2018.

The re-alignment is being driven by Super League's interim chairman Ken Davy and Rimmer, who opposed the breakaway, spoke of the benefits of a unified game.

"Firstly, I think it's critical we sell the sport as one," he said. "All the elements will come together, they won't work in conflict any more and that's really significant.

"It offers a really considerable benefit to any potential investment partner who will want to have input into how a sport goes forward commercially as a whole."

Rimmer sought to allay fears that some of the part-time clubs - which now include London Broncos - could fold due to a major cut in central funding, a direct consequence of a reduced television deal with Sky.

"There are no guarantees," he said. "What I would say is that all the clubs have attended regular forums with us and no surprises have come out.

"We're working very hard to keep everybody in the game."

Super League agreed to hand over more than £5million of the £25m it is thought they will receive from Sky in 2022 and the governing body is ready to distribute around £2m of their share to the 24 non-Super League clubs.

"I think the Super League have acted honourably in this," Rimmer said. "The negotiations were certainly very tough indeed but we're all taking the pain.

"Nevertheless, this is about reshaping, reforming and putting ourselves into a place where we can attract equity investment and take the sport forward.

"From some of the conversations I'm having, there is a very exciting future ahead of us."

Rimmer says the RFL is close to announcing a broadcast deal of its own for coverage of matches in the Championship and League One.