Cash jackpot is up for grabs under new rules

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Halifax chairman Michael Steele believes the Championship clubs will be playing for a six-figure funding jackpot next season.

The plans, currently being finalised by Rugby Football League bosses, are part of the restructuring of Super League from 2015 onwards.

After cutting the number of top flight teams from 14 to 12, with the axed teams taking their place in a 12-team Championship, clubs are expected to play each other home and away before splitting into three leagues of eight, a plan first revealed by Courier Sport in the spring.

One of the major questions is how the teams currently dominating the Championship - Fax, Featherstone, Leigh and Sheffield - will be able to close the funding gap on more established rivals.

But Steele, who will take a non-executive role at the Shay under a boardroom restructure unveiled last week, said the deal currently on the table would see six-figure payouts - believed to be as much as £400,000 - to the top two Championship teams in 2014, with smaller but still significant bonuses for the clubs finishing third and fourth.

Potentially, that raises the possibly of Fax and other part time teams turning full time the following season.

“Where we finish next season is likely to determine our funding for 2015,” said Steele, who will continue as the club’s figurehead and representative on the RFL Council, despite Elland businessman Tony Abbott’s company Reactiv Media taking a controlling shareholding.

“The figures are still under discussion, but the RFL will have significantly more funding available as a result of two teams leaving Super League.”

Reactiv have already committed to pumping another £100,000 into the club this year - money that will be spent on administration rather than football - with London-born Abbott taking a joint chief executive role alongside fellow director Ian Croad.

That will leave Steele, who first joined the club in 2002 as part of the consortium led by the late Stephen Pearson, and fellow long-serving director Mike Riley with significantly less day to day responsibility.

“We have both been at it for a long time,” said Steele.

“We’ve both had a few sleepless nights over the years and it’s someone else’s turn now.

“We’ll be there on the board, advising if we’re needed, but hopefully not putting the advertising boards out on Sunday mornings like we were at the weekend.

“Ian, Tony and Reactiv are committed to driving the club forward now.”