RFL insists "no binding decisions" have been made about competition structure

RFL chairman Brian Barwick
RFL chairman Brian Barwick

THE Rugby Football League has made its first comment since yesterday's controversial Super League press conference by insisting 'no binding decisions' have been made regards competition structure in 2019.

Super League's new chief executive Robert Elstone was unveiled yesterday and, alongside Wigan Warriors' Ian Lenagan and St Helens' Eamonn McManus, claimed there will be no Super 8s in 2019.

Lenagan also said they were "committed" to promotion and relegation although not by having four clubs in jeopardy - which is the case with the current Qualifiers - but by having one club promoted and relegated.

It prompted a furious response from Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington who said the announcement regarding plans for next season "appear to be an absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game."

He urged for strong leadership from RFL chairman Brian Barwick and its board of directors insisting there should be a game-wide response.

The RFL have this afternoon responded with a statement issued on behalf of Barwick and interim RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer.

It read: "We are delighted to welcome Robert Elstone back into the sport as Chief Executive of Super League (Europe), he will undoubtedly be an asset to the game.

"Robert is a talented administrator, is clearly passionate about Rugby League and we very much look forward to working with him as we all look to grow our sport.

"The Super League is a fantastic competition and as the premier competition of this sport should obviously play a key role in leading and shaping the future of it.

"The Rugby Football League has been in discussions with representatives of the Super League since the turn of the year. We have been in regular and broadly constructive meetings with them and Championship and League 1 clubs about potential changes that could strengthen our sport going forward.

"We would like to make clear that these discussions are still ongoing. No binding decisions have been made across a range of issues, including competition structure, but progress is being made. Further meetings are expected to take place between all parties in due course.

"As would be expected the Rugby Football League Board has played a leading role in all of these discussions and will continue to do so. Our ambition, as the sport’s governing body, is to have the strongest Super League possible whilst also ensuring all other elements of the game have the opportunity to flourish.

"We too are determined that the sport of Rugby League grows its profile and maximises its appeal to take advantage of the huge opportunity of hosting the Rugby League World Cup in 2021."

Super League clubs had moved to take greater control of their own destiny by ousting then RFL chief executive Nigel Wood from its own board last November following an extraordinary general meeting.

But - after the club stayed silent on the matter until Tuesday's press conference - Lenagan said: "We are not in any way breaking away from the RFL.

"The RFL remains the governing body as far as rugby league is concerned.

"What we are doing is taking responsibility for the commercial and operational activities of Super League to give the top tier the focus that it should have.

"The top tier of football is well focused and has been successful and the top tier in Australia, the NRL, and we believe it is very important that there is sole focus is Super League in order to grow the game significantly."