Featherstone Rovers chairman Mark Campbell is calling for the Super 8s format to remain in place for the “long-term”.
Ahead of a meeting of all 28 Kingstone Press Championship and League 1 clubs, Campbell has reaffirmed his backing for the current structure and wants it to receive support from the game as a whole.
Warrington Wolves head coach Tony Smith recently slammed the concept, following his side’s win at Featherstone, but the Rovers chairman has rubbished his claims that it could lead to “disaster”.
The Super 8s concept, which sees the Championship’s top four battle it out with Super League’s bottom four at the end of the regular season for the right to be promoted, was launched in 2015.
Featherstone have twice participated in the Qualifiers while Leigh earned promotion through this method last year and Hull KR will go up this time.
Campbell said: “We cannot afford to ditch this concept, nor can we afford to create a closed shop. Clubs must continue to reinvest in order to maintain their place in the sport’s top flight – for rugby league to remain what I believe is the best spectator sport in the world.
“The franchise system was supposed to help clubs produce their own players and grow themselves as businesses. This clearly hasn’t happened as there are a number of clubs that have simply stood still or gone backwards.
“If the process of promotion and relegation is ditched and a route to the top is taken away, once again, I fear for the future of the Championship.
“It would have a huge impact on not just player development but also the owners and sponsors who invest in the sport and their local communities being lost from the game. I totally disagree with Tony Smith’s views on clubs not being ready for Super League from a business point of view.
“If we added the monies received from Sky Sports, at Super League level, to our turnover at Featherstone, we would be up there with at least four clubs who have received such funds for several years now. This means the so-called big boys have failed to develop and grow their businesses – even at top of the game.”
Campbell continued: “I can accept we all face the challenge of growing our fanbases and increasing revenues stream, however I do feel we need to focus on ensuring our product makes national television screens. By sticking with this concept, it is and will continue to happen. That level of exposure is vital for us as a club.
“With a glass ceiling above it, I have no idea where the Championship would turn. I feel fanbases would decline overnight, having had a taste of the top flight once again – for the first time in over a decade.
“Hull Kingston Rovers’ relegation to the Championship and promotion back up into Super League proves the Super 8s – and the Qualifiers – can actually be the polar opposite of negative.
“Hull KR appear to be a club which has now been refreshed and will be so vibrant heading into the 2018 season.
“From our point of view at Featherstone, it is clearly all about desire. If certain clubs became relegated via the Qualifiers, it is fair to say everyone in the sport would worry over their future – as we in the Championship have to do almost every month!
“But how much a club wishes to recover is down to the individuals present there, not the governing body. People must come away from the idea of blaming the RFL for a club’s downfall.”
Campbell reckons the Qualifiers have added interest in the sport.
He added: “When Salford relegated Hull KR in last year’s Million Pound Game it created incredible drama, which happens every year in the Premier League. In turn, the process has massively strengthened the Championship, which now attracts its own bumper TV deal.
“The most notable part of that moment was the way in which Hull KR responded. They did so with real class. They blamed no-one but themselves, rolled their sleeves up and have since dealt with the task at hand.
“The Super 8s concept is absolutely vital for the whole of the game to progress – on and off the field – and we fully support the RFL on the matter. We hope to see it continue and help clubs prosper, develop and succeed in the years ahead.”