Just like over at Red Hall, we at Super League Pod are keen on a whole game approach. With that in mind Mark has given some time this week to thinking about the future of our third tier, currently known as Championship 1.
Torch bearer of all things RL Championships related Gareth Walker recently revealed the proposed options for the third tier in the publication he edits, Rugby League World (and then again in sister publication League Express). So, many of you should have seen these by now.
There are three options that the clubs have been given to consider:
(1) A straight home & away 26 game league season. Top would be promoted to tier two along with the winner of a four team playoff for the other promotion spot.
(2) A 22 game league season with the same promotion & relegation method used, together with a 16 team cup competition including National Conference league and cup winners.
(3) A 20 game league season, with the same cup competition as above, but different playoffs. 1st would play 2nd, the winner getting promoted, the loser joining 3-5 in a four team playoff to decide the other promoted side.
Walker suggests that the clubs are keenest on option (2). On the face of it, it is the most sensible - it keeps a good number of games, whilst not being too complicated, along with having a few options for success that teams have to play for.
The first thought that occurred to me was how much excitement would the cup competition being if you're essentially going to be playing against the same teams you do in the league? It would be great for the two amateur clubs, but would fans really care? Would the fixtures become stale and repetitive? I think there is a real possibility of that.
There are two ways of livening it up, but they will not come together sadly.
Firstly, a great incentive would be to put the final as a Challenge Cup final curtain raiser (let's face it, no Champ 1 team will make that game in this era). A chance for clubs and players at that level to get the Wembley experience would be massive.
Secondly, however, it would be an opportunity for some clubs to keep their season alive, especially with it being a 14 team comp but only 5 teams seeing promotion possibilities at the end of the regular season. The 'however' is because the Cup final is likely to move forward (as we've said before, first Saturday in June would be ideal, but May is more likely). This means the cup competition can only be a Wembley curtain raiser of its played mid-season, when everyone's season is still alive.
Something fair to say is that what they have come up with isn't particularly radical and innovative, which may well come as a rare relief for rugby league fans!
One thing is now for certain, the third tier isn't being completely bypassed by the restructure, even if they are being financially sidestepped from taking rewards from the new TV deal.
The RFL and the Championship 1 clubs have to strike the right balance and find the best way to come up with an interesting and affordable way forward.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on what the best option to take might be and any ideas you might have that the powers that be haven't come up with. Leave a comment or get in touch through the normal social media routes.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to listen to the show!