The uber-competitive Championship should stand on its on two-feet. Who needs Super League?

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The RFL has praised the quality of the work being done by the Co-operative Championship clubs who have ambitions to secure a three-year Super League licence from 2012 onwards.

The clubs met with RFL officials at Halifax this week to discuss the licence application process for the next cycle of licences and reflect on their experiences in 2008.

The RFL has already confirmed that at least one Co-operative Championship club will enter Super League for 2012 to 2014 subject to them meeting the necessary criteria, which cover a broad range of factors including player development, club infrastructure, administrative structure and facilities.

“It was a very cordial meeting and we were delighted by the positivity demonstrated by all the clubs present,”

said the RFL’s Director of Development Gary Tasker.

“The clubs recognise how important it is that we all learn from the experience of the last cycle of the licensing process and that they move forward in a stronger position.

“The RFL is keen to make the licence application process easier for everyone concerned next time around and the meeting was an opportunity to begin laying down the parameters.

“Just as the Co-operative Championship has evolved into a vibrant, exciting and wonderfully competitive competition, the clubs continue to grow in strength and they are to be congratulated on the progress they have made by responding to the licensing process.”

Now see that last statement there by Tasker? That’s something I wholeheartedly endorse. The Co-operative Championship and Championship One have been intensely competitive, producing exciting high quality rugby league.

There is now a valid and viable framework in which an ambitious club can grow to be a valuable part of community life; to provide a focal point for local pride and passion. The Championship is a highly successful competition in its own right.

So why undermine that by promising an escape hatch for the lucky one (or two), which will in all likelihood simply lead to them over-spending and damaging the financial position of the club? Why not reward them instead for building solid community roots, for fiscal prudence and grass roots player development?

I think the time has come to offer equal incentives and support to clubs committing to a long-term tenure in the Championship, regardless of their success on the field. Twinning these clubs with Super League license holders and offering preferential player loans for the U21s from their Super League partner would help them compete with the ‘powerhouses’ intent on ploughing money into their club to build for Super League.

Marketing, Community and player development assistance ought also be made available to these teams to ensure a steady supply of local talent to their senior ranks. That way they can set themselves apart from the rest, as community clubs drawing the majority of their squad from their locality and with deep roots.

That way clubs with proud traditions and rich if neglected player catchement areas can be protected and even enhanced in status, regardless of how dim and distant their chances of ever cracking the top-table might be.

I’m thinking of places like Featherstone and Hunslet and Bramley. Of Barrow and Swinton and Dewsbury.

Let’s even up the playing field a little. The competition can only help those with ambitions to be bigger and better to get … well bigger and better.

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