The licensing system was brought in by the RFL in May 2005 to improve the overall quality of the Super League.
The last season of promotion and relegation was in 2007 and from then on clubs had to apply for a licence to compete in Super League from 2009-2011. With set criteria needed to be met, licences were given on an A, B and C basis with a points system used to decide which license a club would be awarded.
Taking that set criteria into consideration, just how would Super League look like now if licensing returned?
Catalans Dragons – The amount of strides the French club has made since coming into being in the 2000s has been tremendous. They are the role model for any expansion side, with a strong French essence within the playing squad, a superb stadium, a brilliant fanbase and a committed owner. Their Grand Final place in 2021 underlines just how far the Dragons have come on and off the field.
Hull FC – It’s a no-brainer really having Hull FC at the top license award. With superb facilities at the MKM Stadium – though owner Adam Pearson has repeatedly spoken out about a potential move – and a competing squad on the field, Hull tick all the boxes. 2021 was disappointing towards the back end of the season, but don’t be surprised in seeing the Black and Whites come back with a bang in 2022.
Leeds Rhinos – With the upgrade of Headingley complete, Leeds stand out as the ones with arguably the greatest facilities in Super League. Truly bringing the old stadium into the modern era, chief executive Gary Hetherington and owner Paul Caddick have transformed the club. It’s now just up to Richard Agar to continue that on the field – if he is indeed the head coach when the 2022 Super League season comes around.
St Helens – Another club that would sail through the licensing system is St Helens. A new stadium, an incredible conveyor belt of youth and a superb community programme, Saints are the epitome of how a top-flight club should be run. Three Grand Final victories in a row says it all really and they would probably be at the top of everyone’s list.
Warrington Wolves – A club that should perhaps have more silverware under its belt is Warrington. However, aside from the empty Super League trophy cabinet, the Wolves are one of the best run sides in the competition. Under Simon Moran, Warrington have gone from basement dwellers to silverware hunters and would fly through the licensing.
Wigan Warriors – They struggled with the product on the field in 2021, but they’ve more than got the stability off it, so it’s guaranteed that Wigan would be worthy of an ‘A’ licensing award. Alongside St Helens, the Warriors have one of the greatest youth developments in the world, so would have no problem in easing through the process.
Hull KR – Prior to the stadium update, Hull KR would perhaps have been awarded a C license. However, with a brilliant new away stand as well as the development of a fan park experience on game day, Rovers are making important movements off the field. The standard on the field has also improved drastically under Tony Smith whose experience shone through in 2021 as Rovers reached the semi-finals of the play-offs.
Huddersfield Giants – Though the on-field product has left a lot to be desired in recent seasons, the Giants are doing everything right off it. Backed by the committed Ken Davy, Huddersfield are a stable top-flight side. They get a ‘B’ rather than an ‘A’ license though because the fanbase isn’t exactly large and the play-offs have been a long way away for a number of seasons now.
Castleford Tigers – The Tigers are saved by the skin of their teeth due to the product on the field and the large fanbase attached to the club. If they had been anywhere near the bottom of the table then the West Yorkshire club would surely face relegation. With no new stadium on the horizon given the club’s latest update on redeveloping the Jungle instead, Castleford would have to get cracking.
York City Knights – York are a club most definitely on the up. With a head coach that has recently committed his long-term future to the club and a brilliant chairman waiting for his opportunity, the Knights are a Super League club in waiting. Although they had a disappointing 2021 season, head coach James Ford has recruited expertly ahead of the 2022 Championship campaign with the likes of Super League quality in Pauli Pauli and Jamie Ellis. A vibrant city is also a huge draw in for opposition fans and York could be a real success in years to come.