Super League chief Robert Elstone on TV deal, Toronto and league structure

Toronto would not take any central funding if they are promoted to Super League, chief executive Robert Elstone has revealed.

Monday, 16th September 2019, 5:06 pm
Updated Monday, 16th September 2019, 6:06 pm
The Super League trophy at Old Trafford today

The Wolfpack, who are 80 minutes away from reaching the Championship play-off final, have not only been self-funded in the first three years of their existence but have covered the travelling expenses of visiting teams to Canada.

Elstone has confirmed that Toronto would continue to pay their own way if they go one step further than in 2018 - when they lost to London Broncos in the promotion decider - but they must also still meet certain criteria to earn the right to play in the top flight.

“If Toronto win the right to be promoted, then they have to meet minimum standards,” Elstone told a media briefing at the Super League play-off launch at Old Trafford.

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“We are talking to the RFL about what they look like. We are seeking a number of assurances from the RFL and, if we get those and Toronto win that game, they are in.

“If they are in, they won’t be taking a central distribution. The Super League pot will be shared among 11 clubs.” Toronto play Toulouse in the qualifying semi-final at the Lamport Stadium on Sunday, when victory would take them straight into the final on October 5, and Elstone says a decision on their eligibility will be made before then.

“It’s important we get those assurances well before promotion is determined on the pitch,” he said.

Elstone says the situation with Toulouse is more straight forward.

“They will again be asked to comply with minimum standards per the RFL but there are a number of different concerns and issues relating to Toronto,” he said.

The former Everton chief executive says he would welcome London back to Super League but admits they have some work to do.

“We need London in Super League going forward,” he said. “But we need a vibrant, dynamic London playing to bigger attendances in a better facility. That will take some investment and time.

“We are locked into a TV deal for two more years and we’ve just renewed with Betfred for two more years, so losing London is not going to impact on them.

“If we are sitting down with broadcasters going forward, then I would be hopeful London is part of our agenda.”

Amid calls for Super League to go from 12 to 14 teams, Elstone says expansion is unlikely to happen before the current television deal expires at the end of 2021.

“It’s part of an ongoing debate that we do have and must have about the ultimate size and format of Super League,” he said.

“The reality is two more teams require central funding to prosper or compete in that league.

“At the minute, we’re sharing out a pot of money between 12 clubs. To share that same pot between 14 clubs inevitably dilutes that and, if you dilute that, then it’s money that’s not being invested in players and development.

“So that’s a challenge for us. Whether the new TV deal is part of an expansion is absolutely something that we should consider but you would expand on the basis that those new clubs are adding commercial value into the competition, new eyeballs, new footprints, new sponsorship opportunities.

“If they are, you are growing enough revenue to fund it.”

Elstone says the controversial loop fixtures, which were introduced this year to give clubs an extra three home games, will continue in 2020.