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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ve got the product on the field – though that fell a bit flat towards the end of 2021 – and they’ve got the stability off it, so it’s guaranteed that Wigan would be worthy of an ‘A’ licensing award. With, alongside St Helens, one of the greatest youth developments in the world, the Warriors would have no problem.
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 was also much improved in 2021, too, as Tony Smith got the Robins rocking.
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.
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. Their attempts at a new stadium have again fallen through, with Castleford now determined, instead, to develop the Jungle after years of trying to move. Under Daryl Powell, the last two seasons were average, but Lee Radford seems to have injected new life.
Leigh Centurions – Leigh were given the Toronto Wolfpack’s place in Super League ahead of the 2021 season, though that was perhaps a bit premature for the club. However, owner Derek Beaumont has built up a superbly run business behind the scenes, and, with Adrian Lam coming in as head coach with some incredible signings such as Tom Amone and Caleb Aekins, the Centurions are now well placed both on and off the field to become a stable top flight side.
Newcastle Thunder – It’s no surprise that a team in the north east has been touted for a Super League spot. Mick Hogan has turned the club around from the bottom up and the work that Thunder do in the community should be commended. With Denis Betts as Director of Rugby and Eamon O’Carroll as coach, Newcastle have Super League experience ready to go and a rapidly-expanding fanbase.
York City Knights – There hasn’t been a Super League side from York grace the top-flight yet, but that could be about to change in the near future – particularly if licensing was reintroduced. The pull of a major northern city, with a club that is making waves in the Championship could be too big a carrot to avoid chomping