The Super 8s are to be replaced with a conventional one-up, one-down structure between the Super League and the Championship after proposals to restructure domestic rugby league in time for the 2019 season were overwhelmingly approved at a extraordinary general meeting of the Rugby Football League and the sport’s professional clubs.
Super League, led by chief executive, Robert Elstone, have been seeking to end the current Super 8s league format for some time. Opposition to that from a number of clubs outside of Super League led to the RFL calling an EGM in Salford on Friday for a final, decisive vote on the issue – and almost two-thirds of those in attendance voted to approve the changes, meaning this will be the last season of the current format.
“The pressure is now on, rather than off,” said Elstone. “But it’s a good pressure, and a pressure I want. This now is the start of the job, and it’s about me backing up what I’m saying about where the game can go and how we need to present it. It’s down to action.
“It shifts the accountability onto my team and I think everyone in the game will see a sharper focus on Super League – and I think from tomorrow, we’ll now see a leaner and more effective governing body. It’s good news on all levels. Now is the time for some action, and let’s see what we can do with our game.”
The changes mean that the bottom side will be relegated from Super League after 29 regular-season fixtures, compared to the current Super 8s format where the bottom four teams are thrown into a new competition, the Qualifiers, with the Championship’s best teams to fight for survival. Super League will also introduce the return of a top-five play-off system to determine the champions as a result of the changes.
Several clubs outside Super League had warned of a potentially disastrous situation for the lower leagues if the proposals were ratified, with only one side guaranteed promotion and purported financial uncertainty. The chief executive of the RFL, Ralph Rimmer, instead insisted that the changes should be seen as a positive for the whole sport
“We’ve got a fairly intelligent group of people in there who understood that the proposal was the right thing for the game,” he said. “There’s a sense of relief because I think we’ve got a lot more positives in the sport the celebrate than the kind of discussions we’ve had in recent months.”