Almost six years ago, the idea of a two-tier Super League with ten teams in each was suggested by then Warrington chief executive Andy Gatcliffe as a way of improving the standard of Rugby League in the country. The idea acquired little support and the licensing system - itself an unpopular notion - remained in place until the end of the 2014 season. Then, the almost farcical Super 8s concept came into being for the first time in 2015 in order to reward Championship sides with a chance of promotion. Since then, the Rugby League fraternity has struggled to accept the Super 8s idea and there have been a mountain of calls for something new to be introduced.

Increasing club power

In the off-season, Super League clubs gained more power from the sport's governing body, the Rugby Football League. Nigel Wood left his position as chief executive of the RFL whilst he also stepped down from the board of Super League Europe to be replaced with nominees from each of the 12 top-flight clubs. With this strengthened position, Super League clubs are determined to force some kind of change within the game. There has been an abundance of speculation ever since Wood's departure over what avenue the clubs will take and it is looking likely that Super League clubs will vote on two ideas.

The first option - which was met with slight consternation - looks likely to be whether to increase the top tier to 14 for the 2020 campaign with much stricter off-field rules on eligibility to play in Super League.

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The second option, meanwhile, of whether to cut the current top flight from 12 to ten teams with a league of ten below, has sparked furore within the Rugby League fraternity over what this could mean for the future of those outside the top two tiers and the game itself.

Fend for themselves

Whilst those 20 sides in the top two leagues will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of having all the central funding, the remaining 18 clubs will be left to fend for themselves, effectively cut adrift from the two-tier Super League. As such, the 18 remaining sides will either have to find their own money or shut up shop. Protagonists of the idea may well point to the fact that most of the sides in League 1 and lower half of the Championship are barely surviving at the minute on gates of less than 500 and have been dragging their feet for too long.

Yet, clubs such as Barrow, Oldham and Rochdale form the backbone of Rugby League whilst relatively new sides such as Hemel Stags (formed in 1981) and Coventry Bears (founded in 1998) offer something different outside of the M62 corridor, despite a lack of interest in those areas for the sport.

To basically bid adieu to 18 clubs - perhaps 19 if New York join the second Super League tier in 2019 - is the type of small-minded mentality that Rugby League needs to escape from in this country.

Expand not retract

Rugby League is the only sport in the world where it thinks that retracting is the way to grow the game. The current plan would see two clubs go up and down between the first and second Super League tiers, with parachute payments to sides that drop down to the second tier. Then, one side would go up and down to and from the lower league with New York given the immediate right to enter Super League 2.

By constricting the two leagues to 20 teams and restricting pay to those outside, it will be incredibly difficult for a team outside the two divisions to build a solid foundation from which to launch a promotion bid. The third league - with no funding - would very likely become amateur and any hope of making the grade for those that find themselves cut off are minuscule, unless of course they are being bankrolled by a rich benefactor.

As things stand, all the teams who make the Super 8s and Qualifiers would be included in the two leagues, along with the proposed New York franchise and the top three in the Championship Shield. Even then, all the sides to be potentially involved would have to satisfy off-field criteria, with stadia and business plans likely to be at the very top of the check list. But, those who fall below these positions and are cut off could be clubs with strong heritage whilst others may be newer clubs with ambition. Cutting them out of the equation would cause problems and possibly make it impossible to continue as semi-professional clubs.

Cutting the top flight to just ten teams just does not make sense. Even the NRL has 16 sides in its top flight. Though Super League clubs are trying to float ideas in order to build a more competitive league, reducing the league to ten is likely to create more not less apathy than if they were to expand it to 14.

Bigger slice of the pie

In the business world, one has to look after one's self. Inevitably, in a Rugby League sense, club hierarchies are in it for themselves first and foremost. Growing the game comes a far second. As such, there is no regard to what growth can be achieved over the next decade or so by opening up to new markets. That concept is either too far ahead for some or those at the top clubs may actually fear that growing the sport would eventually edge them out by design over time.

Effectively, it is the hand-to-mouth existence of some clubs that means they would rather continually experiment and change for their own ends, rather than see a long to path towards growing the sport. Rugby League is simply not geared to sustain a promotion and relegation system with 20 professional teams. Essentially, it's a variation of the existing format that requires several professional Championship sides to be nearly as competitive as SL clubs. But, the sport just does not have that depth.

In that sense, top Super League clubs are going to further cement their place at the top, keeping most of the money for themselves and reaping most of the rewards on a bigger scale than they currently do already. Sky already has the rights to all games featuring Championship sides, but they do not find such sides worthy enough to broadcast on their network. Surely then, those in the top ten will hoard all of the Sky money whilst those in Super League 2 are edged out once more.

Fixture problems

Just how would a ten-team Super League work? If teams played each other twice, that would constitute a mere 18-game regular season. With the Magic Weekend that would become 19. But, would there be a play-off system? A top four? A top five? In this regard, half of the top-flight sides would be limited to just a 19-game Super League season.

Then comes the idea of playing each other three times to increase the number of games to 27. Part of the joy of being a Super League fan is being able to watch different teams go hammer and tong at each other for 80 minutes. Playing each team three times in the regular season would be a bore and would stagnate the game rather than improve it.

Something needs to happen

Super League does, however, need a boost and quickly. One thing that often crops up in discussions is the notion of scrapping the salary cap, or raising it. But, that's not a solution if clubs can't afford to spend more than what they're already paying. Clubs need to generate more money first, and when sports experience significant growth it's usually as a result of increased TV revenue. To obtain that increased revenue the sport has to offer something unrivalled and investment-worthy to broadcasters. At the moment, Super League isn't that and hasn't been for a good few years. Raise the standard and make it more attractive for top players to play in and it just might be.

This is where the argument of ten teams in tiers 1 and 2 seems like a good idea. This would condense the best talent at the top of the game and ensure that clubs make enough from TV revenue to strengthen and stabilise. But, over the years those at the top of the sport have made more changes than a backroom dress rehearsal. From the number of clubs to the number of games, from the number of cups to the number of competitions, Rugby League has forever been tampered with, but, what has the sport ended up with? No media exposure, limited terrestrial coverage, no household names, players being lost to the game due to the lack of reserves sides and arguably a reduction in the quality of rugby - the main driving force behind attracting new suitors.

Talk is cheap, but the words of a two-tier Super League could be disastrous if put into action. Simply drawing a line somewhere in the Championship and pulling up the draw bridge will only make matters worse and strengthen the misperception that Rugby League is an insignificant northern game, whilst it will also kill off clubs who do not make the cut. The sport's future is on the line and it is a massive decision whatever the clubs decide, the result of which could be on a par with the impact of Super League's creation in 1996.