Wigan’s plan for Super League structure changes deferred

Wigan beat Warrington in last year's Grand Final
Wigan beat Warrington in last year's Grand Final

Super League clubs have pledged to give 12 months notice of any major structural changes to the domestic game after voting to keep the status quo for 2018.

Clubs were due to discuss a proposal by Wigan to increase the number of teams in Super League for next season but, according to the Rugby Football League, unanimously agreed there would be no major changes until 2019 at the earliest.

They also promised that any structural changes for 2019 would be agreed before the start of the 2018 season in February to ensure that all clubs know precisely what will be at stake next season.

The game is just two years into the radical Super 8s format, which was introduced in a bid to ensure interest in all three divisions of the professional game goes to the very last game, reducing the number of ‘dead’ matches.

It was brought in to re-introduce the concept of promotion and relegation after six years of licensing and officials promised to review the structure after three years.

RFL chief commercial officer and Super League executive director Roger Draper said: “The meeting held earlier this month was another positive one and all clubs were fully engaged and excited about the issues we discussed.

“The Rugby Football League and every Super League club is determined that we work together to grow this great game and we now have clarity for the 2018 season and time to consider a variety of options for future years.”

Draper added: “The 2017 Betfred Super League season is one of the most exciting in recent years and Castleford’s victory earlier this month, crowning them League Leaders for the first time in their 91-year history, was a fantastic occasion for all involved with the club.

“Following a brilliant Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final, we now go into the final four rounds of the season looking forward to seeing who will join Castleford in the semi-finals, with any one of the seven other teams in the Super 8s still in with a chance of making the top four.

“The fact that Castleford are the sixth different club to top the league in six seasons is testament to the tremendous competition that exists in Super League.”

Press Association Sport understands there could still be some minor changes for the 2018 season, with clubs still to formally vote on a proposal to award the League Leaders’ Shield at the end of the regular 23-game season instead of after the Super 8s fixtures.

Clubs are also expected to ratify a proposal to bring forward the kick-off for televised Thursday and Friday Super League matches from 8pm to 7.45pm.

The idea is to encourage more families to attend the night matches and assist national newspapers with their deadlines after several matches this season did not finish until after 10pm.