'Change not certain'

Wood chats to Boots about the Watkins Review

Last Updated: 30/07/12 2:32pm

Wood: licensing could continue

RFL chief-executive Nigel Wood says it is not a given that the promotion-relegation system will return to Super League.

"We have to make sure we do justice to the totality of the professional game and make sure there is movement between the divisions."

Nigel Wood

Quotes of the week

Interim RFL chairman Maurice Watkins recently conducted a review into the status of the top-flight, with his report giving particular focus to the way clubs are admitted into Super League.

Promotion and relegation was replaced by the licensing method in 2008 and Wood says a return to that practice will be considered, but insists no snap decision will be made.

"We should pause to acknowledge that rugby league has had a terrific 10 years but at the end of that period it was right and proper to look at our systems of governance," Wood told Boots 'n' All.

"But it's premature to say this report marks the end of licencing and the return of promotion and relegation. We won't make any decisions until 2014, we are just reviewing.

Justice

"The licensing system we have now is a very legitimate and well thought through attempt to put some stability into the competitions.

"But the challenge now is to address how you can move to and from the full-time, excellent standard in Super League and the Championship, which is a competitive standard but nevertheless part-time.

"We have to make sure we do justice to the totality of the professional game and make sure there is movement between the divisions.

"But we must also make sure that it is fair and appropriate movement and gives clubs the best chance of flourishing and surviving at whatever level they are at.

"Super League clubs must be capable of sustaining themselves. There mustn't be chaos like there was with Halifax, Workington and some other clubs who have left the competition in distress and didn't have the financial wherewithal to come straight back.

"However, some people misunderstand licensing and think it is a panacea to all ills when in fact it's like a driving licence - it permits you to participate in the competition but doesn't prevent you having a crash.

"So we need to reflect upon the impact of licensing and reassure ourselves that it's having the positive benefits we thought it would or whether there is a different way that needs to be considered."

Mitigation

Cash-strapped Super League outfit Bradford were docked six points by the RFL on Wednesday due to their fall into administration, dropping them from seventh to ninth in the table.

Wood explained why the Bulls were handed a harsher penalty than the four-point deduction dished out to Wakefield and Crusaders when they entered administration in the lead-up to the 2011 campaign.

And he also reassured the sport's fans that the RFL is doing everything it can to ensure that the four-time Super League winners remain in existence beyond the end of the season.

"With Wakefield and Crusaders new owners had come forward and had to take on a substantial part of the old debt so there was some mitigation with the sporting sanction that was to be applied to those clubs," said Wood.

"But as of today (July 25) we haven't got that with Bradford and we are not sure how much debt is going to be met by any new owners of the club, so we had to go to the top end of the scale.

"We didn't feel we could leave it any longer as we are now in the business end of the season and clubs need to know what they are playing for."

On the Bulls' plight, Wood added: "This is not where a Super League club, let alone one as iconic as Bradford Bulls, should aspire to be, but we are working hard with the people that are left at Bradford, and the administrators, to try and plot a path through into calmer waters.

"We said we were confident that the club would be able to fulfil its obligations form 2012 but discussions are on-going as to what its ultimate destiny should be.

"There are a lot of people working very hard to try and find the solution for Bradford Bulls and a written bid is being considered."