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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Super League set for 2009 changes
The Rugby Football League is set to scrap promotion and relegation in time for the 2009 Super League season.

The RFL also confirmed plans to expand Super League from 12 to 14 clubs.

Promotion and relegation will remain in place for the next four seasons but then potential new clubs are likely to come from London, Wales or France.

Thereafter, the RFL will only consider admitting new teams on a three-yearly franchise system based on clubs' infrastructure, finance and results.

Toulouse have expressed their desire to join Perpignan, who will join the elite division next February, and an application from a Welsh club to be based in Bridgend will be considered by the RFL Council in July.

But executive chairman Richard Lewis insists ambitious non-Super League clubs will still be able to reach the top and says the National League clubs have given their backing to the blueprint.

"We've been talking to them for many months and they agree there is a better way of getting into Super League," said Lewis, highlighting the problems of Leigh, who have struggled to make the transition from part-timers.

We believe we can grow central income and provide revenue for 14 clubs
RFL executive chairman Richard Lewis

"They fully understand that, to have a realistic chance of not just getting into Super League but actually staying there on a sustainable basis, this is a better option in the long term."

Lewis also stressed that plans for expansion were unlikely to take place until the current television deal with BSkyB expires at the end of 2008.

He added that all 12 Super League clubs will undergo an assessment in 2006 and it was hoped that the six clubs who currently fail to achieve a turnover of 3m would soon hit the target.

"If we don't believe it is sustainable and we don't believe that enough players will come through to give us 14 clubs, we won't do it," he added.

The elite players are involved in too many matches which impacts on playing standards at international level and career longevity
RFL chief Richard Lewis

"There is further room for development and we believe we can grow central income and provide revenue for 14 clubs."

Also in the blueprint are plans to have six referees employed by the RFL, although not necessarily full-time, by 2007 and to integrate overseas match officials, particularly Frenchmen, into Super League.

The League also hopes to introduce central contracts for Great Britain players, although this could be five or six years away, but in the meantime, aims to relieve the workload on the game's leading players.

The increase in the number of teams will lead to a reduction in Super League fixtures, since it will remove the need for additional games and enable clubs to play each other home and away.

"The elite players are involved in too many matches which impacts on playing standards at international level and career longevity," said Lewis.

Interview: RFL executive chairman Richard Lewis

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