The Super League will revert to a more conventional structure next season after clubs today voted to scrap the Super-8s.
The decision was welcomed by Wigan owner and chairman Ian Lenagan, who has long been a critic of the current system and believed change was needed to revitalise the competition.
Next season is set to see 12 clubs compete over 29 rounds – home and away games padded by ‘loop’ fixtures – with a five-team play-offs and a one-up, one-down promotion and relegation aspect.
After the crunch summit in Manchester, he said his feeling was “total and utter relief”.
“We’ve now reached the start line,” he said. “I think it’s very positive for rugby league.
“We’ve put the divisions behind us now and we can get on with promoting this great game of ours.
“If you look at the fact 17 were against it, that is a big majority in favour of significant change, 66 per cent.
“I’m delighted with that. It’s a very positive vote for a positive future for rugby league and for Super League.”
Leeds were the one Super League club against the change.
Chief executive Gary Hetherington declined to comment after the meeting, saying he would reflect on the outcome before making any comment.
Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell, a member of the Championship and League 1 advisory panel which led the opposition to the RFL proposal, expressed his disappointment over the failure of the non-Super League clubs to provide a united front but called for the game to unite.
“I’m struggling to see why they would go with the proposal to be honest but everybody has got their own circumstances,” Campbell said.
“What alarms me is that some people who might not be at these clubs in the next couple of months (are) potentially voting to shape Featherstone’s future, which is quite a worry.
“We’ve lost the vote but it’s been a good process and we’ve done all we could to give everybody the information we thought they needed to know. It’s been a fair vote and we’ve got to get behind it now.
“I do believe in rugby league we are a family. Everybody has got their own thoughts on which way they wanted to go but we all love the game and I hope we all get behind this new structure and it works out for everybody.”
It was a secret ballot with 55 votes cast.
Super League clubs received two votes each, to match the number from the Championship and League One, with the remaining seven made up of bodies within the community game.
A majority vote was needed to pass the proposal so long as at least four votes came from Championship and/or League One clubs.
Initial reports suggested around 66 per cent of the vote was in favour for change.
This is the fourth year in which the Super-8s has been in force. Under the structure, Super League splits after 23 rounds, with the bottom four peeling off to form a new mini-division - the Qualifiers - and battle for their top-flight status along with the top quartet from the Championship.
Wigan, and the other top-flight clubs except from Leeds, made their stance clear when they took control of Super League from the RFL and brought in Robert Elstone as chief executive.
But their plans to revert to a more traditional format - including one-up, one-down promotion and relegation - met with resistance from some clubs, particularly in West Yorkshire, prompting the call of an EGM to settle the issue.
They wanted assurances over their level of funding beyond 2021.
That is the year the current Sky Sports contract expires; receding attendances and viewing figures has led to fears the next offer from the broadcasters will be on reduced terms, which was why Elstone was brought in with the brief of revitaling the competition before negotiations begin.