Super League may have to consider the possibility of running a 13-team league in 2021, with one of the competition’s leading chief executives suggesting relegation would be unfair on the side finishing bottom this season because of the impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on the sport.
Rugby league in Britain is postponed until at least 3 April but it is not expected to return until beyond that. The 2020 Super League season is only seven games old but, with the possibility of a revised schedule when play does resume, many are already questioning how that will affect relegation to the Championship.
The club who finish bottom of Super League are automatically relegated, with the Championship play-off winners coming up in their place. But Wakefield’s Michael Carter believes exceptional circumstances may result in an unusual outlook for Super League in 2021.
“I don’t think we can rule anything out,” he said. “We’ve got to consider the issue that someone might not go down this season, because I just don’t think it would be fair to relegate someone in a highly compromised and unusual situation like this one. Similarly, you have to honour the commitment the likes of Leigh and Toulouse in terms of trying to get promotion – can you just tell them they can’t come up despite spending so much?
“It may well be a scenario where you work with 13 teams in Super League in 2021, and find a way to make that work financially and go from there. Is it fair to relegate someone in a situation as bizarre as this? I’m not sure. It could lead to a club just falling by the wayside, which we don’t want.”
Carter is one of several club executives to say in recent days that Super League may have to consider playing games behind closed doors at some stage, because of the precarious financial position in which rugby league finds itself. The sport is heavily reliant on its multimillion-pound broadcast deal with Sky Sports and Carter said if there was a logistical way to stage games it could not be ruled out.
“It would be folly to just say we’d never do that. If Sky said they needed some content and could we get some games on, providing the government regulations allowed it and it worked for us financially, then I don’t see how you’d have an argument against that. We’ve got to be open-minded with everything.”