At the end of 2014, Super League drafted in a controversial new system which also spelt the end for two of Super League’s ever-present clubs in the shape of Bradford Bulls and London Broncos.
Super League had frequently been a 12-team competition until 2009 when the new licencing system was introduced into the sport with Salford Red Devils and the Celtic Crusaders being added to the top tier and keeping bottom club Castleford Tigers from relegation.
From 2009-14, there were 14 clubs in Super League and no relegation. Instead, after 2011 the Crusaders lost their Super League licence and Widnes Vikings claimed one.
However, at the end of 2014 London and Bradford were relegated and the Super 8s were born. This system saw the bottom four clubs from Super League and the top four clubs from the Championship play in a mini-league.
This was called the Middle 8s and would be a fresh competition with everyone playing each other once in a series of seven games. The top three clubs at the end of these seven games would secure places in Super League whilst fourth and fifth would play in the Million Pound Game to secure the final spot.
This would see dramatic encounters between Wakefield Trinity and Bradford Bulls (2015), Hull KR and Salford Red Devils (2016), Leigh Leopards, then the Centurions, and Catalans Dragons (2017) and Toronto Wolfpack and the London Broncos (2018).
After 2018, Super League returned to generic promotion and relegation.
New system in Super League
As we all know, 2024 will be the start of a similarly radical change but in some ways a return to the system in place such before the Super 8s were introduced.
This is because like from 2009-14, Super League positions will be determined not by who finishes last but who scores the best on and off the field through IMG’s scoring system.
Unlike in the past, the scores will be handed out yearly rather than every three years. This means that the top 12 clubs in the IMG rankings will secure spots in Super League.
What about rugby league below Super League?
This has raised questions about the sport below Super League with clubs wanting more competitive fixtures to ensure their survival at the lower end of the pyramid.
This has seen a revamp 1895 Cup but has also seen reports that the Super 8s system will return to the sport for the Championship and League One to provide competitive and intense fixtures between the two leagues to see who will be promoted and relegated. This is according to the Game Caller.
This will see the sport have three tiers of 12 teams for now so the sport would require some new teams to be added.
Furthermore, IMG want to expand Super League which would be a problem for this down the line.
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