Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington has condemned the actions of six of his rival Super League bosses after they thwarted an attempt to heal the rift in the game.
A bid to resolve the dispute over the re-structuring of domestic rugby league was aborted on Wednesday when representatives of Wigan, Warrington, Huddersfield, Hull, Hull KR and Catalan Dragons walked out of a meeting in Leeds to prevent a vote being taken.
Eight of the 14 clubs were set to support the Rugby Football League’s proposal to cut the number of top-flight clubs from 14 to 12 from 2015 but the meeting was left without a quorum following the planned walk-out.
It followed a decision to postpone an extraordinary general meeting of the Rugby Football League council a fortnight ago after a majority of Super League clubs, led by Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan, forced a re-think on the governing body’s re-organisation plans and leaves the game in stalemate.
Lenagan’s argument is that any debate on change should only take place alongside a review of the competition’s commercial management and governance, which effectively amounts to a power struggle.
Leeds and St Helens were the only top-eight clubs to toe the line and Hetherington was furious at the latest turn of events that threatens to destabilise the game.
“I have been attending Super League meetings for 17 years and I have never seen anything like this before,” Hetherington said.
“It’s appalling that a small number of men can disrupt a proper process by putting a gun to the head of the sport, making selfish self-interested demands.
“Every rugby league fan should be concerned with what these people are doing. They, along with every Championship club, and the majority of Super League clubs are paralysed whilst these six men flex their muscles.”
The actions of Lenagan and company were also condemned by Super League (Europe) chairman Brian Barwick, the former Football Association chief executive, who is also chairman of the RFL.
“It is very disappointing that we were unable to take a vote on such important issues because some clubs chose to refuse to participate further,” Barwick said.
“In many ways this form of action is unprecedented. These proposals would have had a positive impact on the whole sport but they were halted by a minority of clubs.
“Clearly some of the clubs have deep-rooted issues and between us we have to find a way of resolving our differences for the benefit of both Super League and the wider game.
“It is my view that this was a very unsatisfactory way for the six clubs to demonstrate their frustration.”
The debate is now set to resume after the World Cup in December, leaving clubs with little time to prepare for a season which could herald the return of automatic promotion and relegation.