24 September 2015

A Vision for the Future

We haven't posted a blog piece for a while but a recent tweet to the show sort of reminded me of an idea I had a few years ago on how I would look to adapt the league structure for Super League, and it's possibly even more suited to the NRL.

Here is the tweet:

My idea, which came as part of a blog post in 2013, is to get the Super League in a position where it could have at least 16 teams, that were split into two conferences of 8 teams each. It would be an extension of Paul's suggestion to split the Super League Super 8 into two groups of four.

Each team would play their own conference home and away - 14 fixtures. They would also play each team from the opposing conference once, rotating the home game each year - to make it 22 fixtures.

Magic Weekend would be a 23rd fixture and this would involve each side playing against the same ranked side from the other conference of the previous season's competition.

The League Leaders Shield / Minor Premiership, if retained, would go to the team with the best 23 game regular season record.

The play-offs would then be 1v4 and 2v3 of each conference, the winners of which will play off for the conference title. The two conference winners would then meet in the Grand Final - a maximum total of 26 Super League fixtures for the two best sides.

This leaves ample room for the World Club Series, the Challenge Cup in England, State of Origin in Australia and a possible mid-season international window, or old-style tours in the end the season international window.

The World Club Challenge would be between the two Grand Final winners and the World Club Series could have a four game total slate, with the remaining six conference finalists filling those fixtures that could run from Thursday to Sunday over one weekend, or be done as two double headers.

If the English/European obsession with promotion and relegation needed to be retained that would also be possible through having the bottom club of each conference play-off and be replaced by the top club from the league below.

There is the opportunity for expansion too, if some sort of franchise system is preferred but others want access down the line. Adding two more teams to the league can mean an increase of only two more games - you'd have 18 intra-conference games and 9 inter-conference games, with Magic Weekend now not an additional fixture but one of those 9. Further expansion could see conferences split into divisions and teams earning play-off spots over their divisional rivals, then ranked against the records of their conference rivals.

I would make it clear that this isn't being written as a challenge to the current structure (Super 8s is in its infancy after all). It's just an idea, that I have, for a structure I believe would allow us to be able to get more from than what we've seen in the past.

It's not revolutionary - it's basically the American Model. It's one that works well, commercially and for sporting competition.

I know it's a little fanciful for now, especially for Super League. It will need more funding, and more equal sharing of that funding, because in Super League in particular there is a disparity in finances, facilities and playing strengths that needs to be closed between the top 16 sides to make it meaningful competition most weeks of the season. But I don't think it's light years away from being a realistic proposition either - I mean, there will already be 16 full-time clubs in the European competitions in 2016. And to be honest, the NRL could do it now, if they wanted.

Here's an example of how it could look:
Sydney Conference
Sea Eagles

National Conference

Obviously, with expansion, teams can move conferences to where they might have originally preferred to be, and this is just one idea of how to work it. Based on 2015, though, those happen to be quite well balanced though, with four Top 8 sides in each conference.

Anyway, it's all just thoughts in my head because I doubt this would happen, even though I think it could revitalise things in a way that wouldn't need to be changed again and that everyone can be happy with. Of course, it's rugby league, so we'll never find something that everyone can be happy with.

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to listen to the show.