With the announcement that Super League would be moving towards a franchise system and scrapping Promotion and Relegation, we have seen a number of lower grade teams in the UK making a big song and dance about why they deserve to be in the final Super League lineup.
Among those were the Widnes Vikings.
You’d get told stories about their history, how they deserved to be in the top grade and how, without them, the closed door Super League competition would be in major trouble.
Fast forward to last weekend National League One Grand Final where Widnes played Castleford for the right to be promoted into Super League. This was an important game as the winner would have a greater os snaring a franchise ahead of the end of the Promotion and Relegation system.
Castleford won the Grand Final 42-10.
Two days later Widnes announced that they had gone into administration.
This is a clear cut case of why promotion and relegation does not work and needs to be scrapped.
Teams that can not sustain a strong financial presence in lower grades spend way beyond their means to try and get promoted. If they get promoted, they last one or two seasons before being relegated again. If they don’t get promoted, they fall into a financial heap.
It has happened so many times and has seen so many clubs go belly up.
People will tell you that the death of Promotion and Relegation will be the death of a number of clubs in the lower grades. They say with no “hope” supporters will stop caring and attendances will fall, sending clubs into financial ruin.
The fact is clubs are forced into financial ruin anyway because of the false hope that one day they might get a season or two of being thrashed in Super League. Crowds are not all that crash hot until it looks like a club is in with a chance of being promoted and glory hunting supporters come out of the woodwork.
Many suggest that once Super League goes to a Franchise system that every club in the lower grades can forget ever playing in the top flight. Thats complete rubbish!
With Franchising in place, clubs in the lower grades now have the chance to spend within their means and build towards long term success. Money can now go into junior development instead of the pockets of short term mercenaries who will stick around for one season until you miss promotion, and then they move on.
Money can go into steadily improving facilities and generally getting the clubs up to a standard where they have a strong grounding to actually start to look towards something more.
Is there any doubt that Super League would be open to further expansion in the short term if we saw a club in National League One with good support, quality facilities and an all round great set up as it dominated the lower grade and looked a cut above anyone else?
For all the misty eyed talk of Promotion and Relegation, this is the reality of it all. Widnes was 80 minutes away from taking a place in Super League, and 48 hours away from being put into administration.
Anybody that thinks a system that allows for that to happen is a good thing obviously hasn’t got the best interests of the game at heart.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com