London Broncos: Gus Mackay wary of shake-up

London Broncos chief executive Gus Mackay has warned the Rugby Football League must be cautious over the proposed restructuring of the game, and that London must retain a representative in Super League.

Super League and Championship clubs are set to vote on three new options for league competition, which were unveiled by the RFL  earlier this month as part of their policy review.

"We need to make sure whatever decision is taken is the right one for the longevity of the game," Mackay told BBC London 94.9.

"We mustn't forget the investment which has been put into clubs by owners and clubs themselves and it has got to be clear for the fans to understand.

"You want your best players playing against each other the whole time and all the clubs want to play the big sides because there are commercial benefits.

The three new proposals

Option 1 - Super League reverts to a 12-team competition (from 14) and a 10 or 12-team Championship, with one club promoted and relegated each year

Option 2 - A two-division Super League with each division comprising 10 teams

Option 3 - Two divisions of 12 in Super League, with teams playing each other once to provide 11 fixtures before splitting into three groups of eight in mid-season and then playing each other home and away to provide 14 more matches

"There is a lot of work to be done and in a short timeframe as well."

At present, places in Super League are subject to a licensing system, which has been in operation since 2009.

The RFL has proposed a Super League and Championship with one club promoted and relegated each season, a two-division Super League or two Super League divisions of 12 teams which split into three divisions of eight halfway through the season.

The consultation process is expected to continue throughout the summer, with clubs set to vote on any recommendations later in the year.

No changes can be introduced until the start of the 2015 season.

Mackay says that the financial implications of any restructure will have to be carefully considered before the Broncos decide which option to back.

"We need to understand all the options and the financial models which go with them before we make a decision of what we are going to support," he added.

"We have discussed it internally, with the chairman [David Hughes], the board and the coach [Tony Rea], but we are not going to make a decision or give a view at this stage until we have all the options on the table.

"The big part in all this is what is the financial impact is if you are not in the top 12 or the three eights or wherever it turns out to be. That has to be taken into consideration.

"You have got to look at how you are going to sell season tickets and the likely commercial impact of lower gates."

With a burgeoning semi-professional game and a newly formed Championship One competition this season, including new sides such as Hemel Stags,  Oxford and the University of Gloucestershire All Golds,  Mackay is mindful that the game needs to continue developing.

Analysis

The danger in London is the uncertainty that the re-introduction of promotion and relegation would bring.

It could force the best out of the team, club and structure, resulting in improved performance levels.

But it could easily put pressure on one of the sport's weak spots and, with the possibility of the side not being in Super League, in the worst case scenario, spell the end for the club.

The key for Broncos is that being out of the top division would make the game even harder to sell to investors, sponsors and fans. And it's hard enough as it is.

Having to function as a part-time side would also change the sporting landscape at the club dramatically.

Although the Broncos have never finished bottom of Super League it has been a few years since they were in the higher echelons.

With that in mind and their desire to be in the game's top division, option 2 or 3 may not suit them.

Ian Ramsdale, BBC London 94.9 rugby league reporter.

"I think that is one of the challenges the sport faces - trying to integrate a fully professional league with a semi-professional one," Mackay said.

"That has got to be looked at in detail.

"If you talk just promotion and relegation, as in football, it does allow clubs to go down and rebuild, steady themselves and have another go. But you do need parachute payments.

"Before my time I understand clubs went up to Super League, gave it everything, then went down and were then no longer about.

"Licensing has seen clubs find hard times and so has promotion/relegation."

Mackay believes option three, which sees two divisions of Super League splitting mid-season, could over-complicate the sport.

"When you do these structures and people come up with new ideas, the one which comes from left-field is always the one which is talked about the most," Mackay said.

"It is different and I understand trying to be creative and different but we need to keep it simple.

"We mustn't forget what we are about and what we are trying to achieve."

Warrington coach Tony Smith says that substantial changes to Super League could cause "mayhem" and Mackay is keen to stress that London should retain a representative in the top division.

"That's fundamentally a big part of Super League and it has to be," Mackay said.

"We have to do whatever we can, working with the governing body and other parties, to make sure that there is a Super League club in London.

"Otherwise it just drifts and becomes a sport that is only played in the heartlands, which is wrong."