Super League: New CEO Robert Elstone confirms Super 8s format to end


Robert Elstone joined Super League following a spell at Everton Football Club

Super League will scrap the current Super 8s format next season and switch to a ‘one-up, one-down’ system, says new chief executive Robert Elstone.

Promotion and relegation is currently decided by fusing the Super League’s bottom four after 23 regular season games with the Championship top four.

After playing each other once, the top three go up, while a fourth versus fifth play-off completes the quartet.

“The Super 8s was well-intended,” Elstone told BBC Sport.

“In the search for a competition format that retained interest right through is a laudable objective, but what it has created is too much uncertainty and risk.

Robert Elstone says the uncertainty of the Qualifiers is something that needs to be removed from the rugby league structure

“Right now 12 Super League clubs, six or seven of them are worried about dropping into the Qualifiers, getting a bad injury run and facing big life changes.

“The Championship clubs looking up are thinking it’s a great opportunity, but in the medium term if you’re promoted then a year later you face the same risk.

“Fans aren’t sure about fixture lists, broadcasters aren’t sure about fixture lists, and I think we just have to take the uncertainty out and go back to something we are used to.

“The detail of one-up one down in terms of standards, the automatic nature is something we need to work through.”

That format, introduced in 2015, means all clubs play 30 games before any further play-off activity, six more than their National Rugby League counterparts in the southern hemisphere.

With Challenge Cup ties also added to the schedule, elite players in the northern hemisphere are taking on a greater workload.

‘It’s an absurd grab for power’

There has already been one dissenting voice after Elstone revealed the changes – Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington.

Hetherington, who has had administrative roles at Sheffield and Leeds as well as coaching and playing positions, and was formerly president of the RFL, was quick to reveal his discontent.

“Today’s announcement regarding plans for next season appear to be an absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game,” the statement from Leeds said.