RL row hots up: Back to one up, one down?

Ian Lenagan
Ian Lenagan

Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan has proposed a return to straight one up, one down promotion from Super League as soon as next season.

The suggestion comes in a letter to the chairman and owners of top flight clubs, which sparked Monday’s rebellion against the Rugby Football League’s plans to restructure the top two divisions of the professional game.

Courier Sport has seen a copy of that document, in which Lenagan names Warrington, Hull, St Helens, Huddersfield, London and Hull KR as teams that have aligned themselves behind Wigan in the scrap with the RFL and its chief executive Nigel Wood.

In a wide-ranging attack on the RFL, the letter takes aim at everything from the voting rights of Super League clubs, marketing and commercial failures of the governing body to the potential redistribution of TV funding under the proposed switch to two leagues of 12, followed by a three-divisions-of-eight play off series.

But the Warriors boss concludes by saying that Wigan would prefer an immediate return to promotion and relegation in a 14-team competition, as well as a revamp of the Super League play off system.

“It is Wigan’s personal opinion that we should change immediately in 2014 or 2015 to one promotion/relegation place to Championship and a top-5 playoff structure with the League Leaders going to the Grand Final automatically,” reads the letter.

Ironically, the concept of one up, one down was condemned as unworkable prior to the introducing of three year top flight ‘licences’ in 2008, largely on the grounds that it led to a ‘yo-yo’ culture due to the gap in funding between the two competitions.

The RFL’s latest proposals are believed to give the top four Championship clubs significant cash payouts in a bid to narrow that chasm.

“It is we clubs who own Super League not the RFL and Wigan for one do not want to see our millions of pounds of investment in Super League distributed to a further 10 clubs beyond the current 14,” said Lenagan.

“A strong Super League with better marketing and profile, enhanced central revenues, reduced RFL central costs and clear focus on Super League priorities for the whole of rugby league rather than the disruption of a risky, distracting reorganisation.”