Danny Lockwood: No Such Thing As One Size Fits All

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By DANNY LOCKWOOD

EMBARRASSING confession time. Hand on heart, and I know I should, but I couldn’t state with absolute certainty the end-of-season promotion / relegation formula between the second and third tier professional British leagues.

I say ‘three leagues’ because right now we have five. And I use the word ‘professional’ loosely – a friend’s son made the switch from union to League 1 this Season and I think his petrol bill was more than his match fees.

I was reading the views of a former coach at the weekend, bemoaning the fact that the denouement of the season is radically different in each and every respect.

We’re (probably) all familiar with the simplest structure, the elite Super 8s and the race to finish in the top four, albeit with ongoing debates about whether or not to ‘reset’ the points tally in some contrived fashion or other.

(Leave well alone. say I).

The Qualifiers / ‘Middle Eights’ and much-hyped Million Pound Game is settling into the RL psyche although again, not without controversy and criticism.

A Rugby League Back Chat programme of a few weeks back featured a Chairmen’s special with Wakefield’s Michael Carter being particularly harsh about that format, which I’ll return to shortly.

The Championship also-rans, almost unthinkably featuring the Bradford Bulls this year, have their Championship Shield to contest, another variation on  the end of season theme, and then it’s down to the 15-team League 1 and, by necessity, a slightly different format once more.

Whatever convolutions they throw into that mix, it’s difficult to see anyone halting the inexorable progress of Toulouse into next season’s Championship, although again there’s a semi-contrived climax involved in gaining promotion. That’s the bit I’m not crystal clear about.

So, three leagues that fracture into essentially five divisions, all doing something a bit different.(continued below)

Messy, isn’t it?

Yes it is, but it’s messy because of best intentions, a well-meaning attempt to give everyone something to play
for right up to the last month of the season.

We’ve got the Toronto Wolfpack arriving next season which is going to provide a whole new set of talking points and it remains to be seen how that experiment – because experiment it certainly is – unfolds.

If it coincides with an ‘established’ club like Sheffield Eagles going belly up (see below) or even as we witness potentially drastic changes at either Salford or Bradford, then there’s going to be real turmoil.

Plenty for we pundits to muse on, for sure.

As and when the next change in format comes – which you can bank on because this is a sport which hasn’t stood still for long in all its 121 years – anything could happen.

It could be something so convoluted as to give Prof Brian Cox a migraine, or we could even go ‘back to the future’ with straight up and down promotion and relegation, which really would be revolutionary.

It’s Rugby League – you never can tell.

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