The way forward for engage Super League

After the 2008 season, a new structure will be introduced to engage Super League with the ultimate aim of improving standards both in the elite competition and at all levels of Rugby League in this country.

To provide you with a greater understanding of this system we have put together this document which will answer many of your questions.

If there is anything further you want to ask, please feel free to e-mail us at:

We will try to answer as many of your questions as possible via the website.

What is meant by ‘licensing’?

From 2009 only clubs who have been awarded a ‘licence’ by the independent RFL Board will participate in the engage Super League competition.

Each licence will last for three years. This will mean an end to the system of promotion and relegation that currently exists.  The composition of each League will be determined by another method. However there will be opportunities for clubs to move between The Co-operative National Leagues One and Two each season. There will also still be opportunities for Co-operative National League clubs to move into Super League every three seasons.

To be granted a Super League license, clubs will have to show that their organisations meet a number of standards (see the following question for more details).

What are the criteria and standards for membership of engage Super League in 2009 and who will decide which teams are admitted?

Clubs applying to join the 2009 Super League competition will be assessed against the following four areas:

• Stadium facilities.
• Finance and business performance.
• Commercial and marketing.
• Playing strength including junior production and development.

The fact that certain clubs applying for a license potentially may not have played in Super League before will also be taken into account.

The independent RFL Board of Directors will evaluate the bids and determine who gains membership to engage Super League 2009.

Are the clubs and the game as a whole happy with this new system?

Clubs in both the engage Super League and The Co-operative National League have been consulted over a long period about the introduction of this system.

After hearing all the details about the new system, they have formally approved the process that will see the RFL Board of Directors to making a decision in the best interests of Rugby League as a whole.

In particular, during a series of recent meetings, The Co-operative National League clubs have shown they are collectively comfortable with the introduction of the new system and the decisions being taken in this way.

Which teams can apply for a license?

The policy for UK based clubs is that they have to be in The Co-operative National League One during the 2008 season to apply. 

To secure a place, member clubs currently playing in engage Super League have also had to apply for a license.

Clearly clubs based outside the UK and thus currently not involved in The Co-operative National League or engage Super League have different circumstances as they cannot reach the minimum level required of UK based clubs.

Despite this, any applications from outside the UK will be judged by the independent RFL board under the same process as UK based applications.

What are the benefits of licensing?

The RFL and clubs in both engage Super League and The Co-operative National League believe the new system will bring a number of key benefits.

Clubs will be able to invest properly in junior player production, stadium and training facilities and enhanced club management, rather than have the short term emphasis on recruiting established players to avoid dropping out of the elite competition.

In many cases these players are from overseas and thus the strength of the game in the UK is reduced and often damaged.

Also, a three year license creates the opportunity for clubs to plan for the long term and not take short term decisions to avoid ‘the drop’.  Knee-Jerk recruiting of overseas players to bolster squads is often at the expense of bringing young talent through the system.

The international team are also likely beneficiaries of a ‘licensing’ system. 
With more young players receiving experience of highly competitive professional Rugby League, the depth of talent available to the representative teams will grow.

The overall effect will be to drive continuous improvement of the standard of Rugby League in the UK.

The new system will also create more opportunities for engage Super League clubs to be well run and managed and create high quality infrastructure to provide players, staff, spectators and media with well appointed, well equipped and safe working environments.

Clubs will have a stable platform to work towards the highest standards of financial and business management of their organisations including promoting the highest standards in commercial, marketing and community programmes.

The collective business strength of (Super League (Europe) Limited) will also grow.

What is wrong with the current system?

The current promotion and relegation system presents problems because of the disparity in standards and resources between the two Leagues.

Promotion is currently fundamentally determined only by on-field issues – with some stadium criteria being taken into account.  This means that clubs chasing a place in the top division might be tempted to invest a disproportionate amount of resource into player recruitment as opposed to a more holistic approach to club/business development that benefits not only the club itself but the whole game.

This approach also damages the National League competition by placing the wrong emphasis on the competition. It is seen as purely a means to an end (i.e. promotion to Super League). Not as a valuable and important sporting competition which is very worthwhile winning.

Again it’s important to remember that the professional cubs agreed this approach to structuring the sport’s domestic competitions in 2005 and that they would be assessed against set criteria and determine membership of Super League from 2009.

How long will a license last for and can it be withdrawn?

A licence will INITIALLY be for three years however, the independent RFL Board will have the right to revoke a club’s membership if need be at any stage.

Although the reasons for this are still to be finalised it is likely to include insolvency, contractual breach, persistent under performance and possibly persistent rule breaking.

Any ‘failing’ club who has its membership removed could be replaced by a ‘successful’ club from outside engage Super League.

All clubs will be reassessed in 2011 before licenses are awarded for the 2012-2014 seasons.

Will engage Super League in 2009 have 12 or 14 teams, and could this grow in future years?
The aspiration is that 14 teams will make up engage Super League in 2009 and this decision will be taken jointly between Super League (Europe) Limited and the RFL.

The decision to expand to 14 teams has to be affordable and will be based on a number of factors including finance, development areas for the sport and the availability of quality players.

What is the timetable for clubs under this new licensing system?

Clubs must submit their completed applications by the end of March 2008.  The RFL Board will then decide which teams are granted a license for engage Super League during June before making an announcement - likely to be in July 2008.

Preparatory work for this process has already started with a number of clubs submitting ‘dummy’ applications to the RFL in previous seasons and during this season.  Feedback has been given on a club-by-club basis as how to these applications can be improved.

What does this mean for clubs who don’t achieve Super League status in 2009?
Although it is anticipated that the engage Super League in 2009 will have 14 teams there is no upper limit on membership.  Also, a club can be removed and replaced.

Therefore, if a club is meeting the expected criteria for an engage Super League licence and, it makes financial sense for all clubs involved in the competition to accept a new member, then the size of Super League may be expanded.  However, this should not be detrimental to the overall quality of the competition and depth of playing talent.

All clubs will have the ability to re-apply in three years time and the RFL believes the Co-operative National League competition has tremendous value and prestige which can only continue to grow.
The changes to the structure of the sport will also make The Co-operative National Leagues more competitive.  Teams will compete on a more level playing field, rather than having League One dominated by the team relegated from engage Super League.

Also the ‘Yo-Yo’ system which has shown to be very damaging to clubs can be stopped and clubs at all levels can plan for the long term.

The RFL and the clubs in The Co-operative National League will work in partnership to add further value to the sport at this level so it becomes a competition to win its own right.

Don’t forget also that consistent strong performance on and off the field will put clubs in a good position to possibly gain an engage Super League licence in the future.

During the 2007 season The Co-operative National League benefited greatly from regular live TV exposure and in the recently agreed extension to the broadcast agreement with Sky Sports, the RFL has delivered an increase on this.

Remember if you have any further questions about licensing please e-mail us at and we will try answer it via the website.


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