Rugby league is going through a change with the new IMG era and grading, something that has been brought about to aid both clubs and the sport financially, a clear necessity given the collapse of three teams in the past year.
Beyond the bright lights of Super League and the international test series that we’re currently being treated to is the rest of the pyramid, and this past season has seen three of those lower level sides in the pyramid fold leading to questions over the viability of the Championship and League One.
Prior to the 2023 season West Wales Raiders withdrew from League One, creating a ten team competition, and since then London Skolars went under during the season. Another shock loss came post-season when Newcastle Thunder, who had been relegated to League One, confirmed that they were set to fold.
Whilst Thunder have since rallied and are trying to reform with the help of funding it still paints a sad picture of the sport beyond Super League and it also begs the question of what happens next? As it stands the Championship tallies at 14 teams whilst League One has eight, but could reform be happening?
Teams from the two divisions have been meeting of late to discuss viable options and structures going forward, just last Wednesday RFL Chief Executive Tony Sutton chaired one such meeting with the clubs following the release of the preliminary gradings.
Just over a week on and the latest update, as Serious About Rugby League have been informed, is that proposals have gone to clubs yet no official decision has been made yet.
It was also outlined that changing league set-up following such a competitive 2023 campaign, during which teams were contesting promotion and relegation, would be a difficult matter.
As such that does leave uncertainty but the most likely outcome would seem to be an unchanged Championship and League One given that a major shake-up aligning with the season in which IMG gradings come into full effect could rock the boat too much.
There’s also uncertainty hanging over the head of Newcastle Thunder and if they will partake in the upcoming campaign, leaving League One unclear as to whether it has eight or nine members at present.
The last statement from Thunder explained that they were set to fundraise in an attempt to survive, a club statement reading: “The club need to raise a six figure sum to be able to compete in 2024. Around half of that amount has been secured via sponsorship, Value in Kind support and the RFL central funding.
“The other half of the fundraising needs to come from additional sponsorship, match-days, events and a supporters membership scheme that will be unveiled in early November.
“Discussions are ongoing with the RFL over what guarantees will be needed for the club to compete in League One for 2024.”
With confirmation that proposals have gone to clubs it could be a matter of time before there’s a firm resolution on both league structure and Newcastle’s decision to either partake or withdraw from the upcoming campaign.