A proposal which involves increasing the number of teams in Super League to 13, or even 14, is being considered by the Rugby Football League as discussions begin on the format of the sport’s league structure for 2018 and beyond.
High-ranking officials from both the RFL and Super League met at Haydock Park last week to discuss the future of the Super 8s structure. While no decision was reached, a proposal put forward by one club owner is understood to have attracted particular interest.
It includes bringing at least one extra side into the competition, with the leading contender for the extra slot likely to be Hull Kingston Rovers if they fail to gain promotion from the Championship this season. Hull KR were relegated from Super League last October in the Million Pound Game defeat against Salford.
Around three-quarters of clubs were understood to have expressed interest in the proposal which will now be assessed for financial viability before the clubs meet again next month to discuss it further. While clubs were interested in the idea, they are keen to seek assurances that should any extra teams come into the competition, existing funding levels would not be cut as a result of an increased Super League.
The proposal also includes plans to potentially rise the number of teams in Super League even higher, with a 14th team coming in – although that would likely not occur until 2019 at the earliest if the plans are given the green light by both the RFL and the clubs.
Any increase of the competition’s size would inevitably involve changes to the regular season format, and questions will arise on how the introduction of an extra side would affect Magic Weekend, where an entire round of fixtures is played at one venue across a single weekend. The concept is almost certain to remain in the calendar in 2018, and will likely remain as a bonus round. Yet with a 13-team competition that would create a disparity in points, with one team unable to play the same amount of fixtures as everyone else.
An official decision on changes to the structure are not expected to be revealed until the end of the season, but other tweaks to the current format discussed last week include awarding the League Leaders’ Shield before the start of the Super 8s, as well as a potential earlier kick-off time for the Thursday evening time slot.