LAST month we set out why Super League is need of a revamp – starting with its now meaningless name and put out the historical context of rugby league’s elite competition since 1996.

Read: The case for revamping Super League and a history lesson

Over the next few weeks we will play Devil’s Advocate to present different arguments on what the sport needs to do if it is to have any chance of growing its support, exposure, revenue and TV interest.

Here is the first of those arguments – and it one that goes for quality over quantity.

Fans often look down an unimaginative fixture list and loop fixtures and make the leap to a Super League of 14.

No matter how well-meaning, blowing the competition up to 14 particularly at this time, as some supporters advocate, would have the opposite effect to what they want to achieve as it would lead to even more duller fixtures.

That would be a lazy compromise for a sport that can’t get its head around the top-flight potentially losing Toulouse (or Leeds) and it being replaced by Leigh or Fev.

St Helens Star:

You are either in favour of promotion and relegation and take what comes, or you licence the whole comp - you can't pick and mix when suits.

At a time when the sport has received a smaller than previous financial settlement from the TV deal to spread that jam even more thinly would impact on all of the clubs not just the newcomers.

And it would disproportionately affect the clubs who are already the weakest in terms of what they have to spend.

It would also lead to a dull fixture list that would be the opposite of what we need to be striving for in terms of attracting and retaining fans, media, profile and revenue.

However, plodding on as is and sticking with the status quo and expect it to suddenly spark something into life is not an option.

We need to think radically and go back through gritted teeth and accept Maurice Lindsey was right and implement the parts of Framing the Future that the game collectively chickened out of, trimmed and compromised before the first ball of the new Super League era had even been kicked.

Maybe too many of us were guilty of playing the man, given what Lindsay oversaw at Wigan, instead of the ball, but the 'Framing the Future' document drawn up by independent consultants spelled out that there were too many professional clubs chasing too small and too geographically narrow a market.

And, when looking at the state of the grounds, the FTF document added that too many failed to provide the facilities necessary to compete with other forms of entertainment.

Die-hards bristled at the document suggesting an elite Premier League, especially over the issue of reducing the number of pro clubs by mergers and establishing firm criteria that those clubs would have to meet.

St Helens Star:

It produced an absolute furore – but significantly some of those clubs, who were probably being identified as having sub-standard facilities, are still in the same boat, although there has been some movement this year at Wakefield and more plans at Castleford.

Lancashire clubs like Saints, Leigh, Warrington, Salford, Wigan and Widnes have either renovated their homes or in most cases built a new one.

Apart from the odd year of licensing and the elevation of Catalans, Super League is essentially no different to the old First Division with it being down to positions being secured on the field. And evidence of that comes in the current Championship where Featherstone and Leigh are engaged in an arms race to secure the top-flight spot.

There is no strategic planning involved in Super League, no global plan for the game, no identification of markets and possible franchises that would broaden the game’s appeal and ability to financially benefit the whole sport.

Not pushing for a Welsh franchise when interest was at its highest in 1995 was a mistake, but allowing the resistance from fiercely proud smaller clubs on the question of merger to beat them into submission was as bad.

Ironically, the only clubs that have merged in this time are in development areas. The Gateshead Thunder franchise, given a place ahead of Swansea and Cardiff in 1999, was gobbled up by Hull Sharks later that year.

And in the same season Sheffield Eagles, who had won the Challenge Cup the year before at Wembley, went in with Huddersfield with whom they shared a joint name for a couple of years before it was dropped.

So, let’s take a step back to 1995.

For starters, Super League is now a meaningless brand name – taken over and in some cases tainted by other sports – so we should go back to having the title of our game in the name of the Let’s have the Rugby League Premiership.

And although this idea will enrage some, let’s have just 10 top quality teams in the top-flight for starters who will all start the season with a realistic chance of challenging for honours.

Build and market each game as an event – focus on quality rather than pile it high quantity.

Not only will they have top-notch playing rosters as the talent pool would be more concentrated, but all the other benchmarks would need to be fulfilled on stadia, crowd figures, business plans, brand promotion and youth and junior development.

St Helens Star:

And those boxes should be ticked by an independent body – not by the clubs themselves or by each other in a you scratch my back exercise.

The Premiership should be shadowed by 10 teams in the Rugby League Championship – and promotion should be determined every three years based on performances on and off the field.

If a team in the second tier is finishing top each year and pulling in 8,000 plus crowds and ticks the other boxes then it should be a no-brainer that they are elevated.

So who gets in?

Even so-called automatic choices like St Helens, Wigan, Warrington, Catalans and Leeds should be subject to independent scrutiny.

Both Hull clubs have a rivalry and a support base that adds value to the competition – but again their plans would need to go through a thorough grilling.

At this point there needs to be a genuine argument about what we want the competition to look like and avoid the temptation to start sticking pins in maps and plucking out place names that would give the competition an illusion of strength not backed up in reality.

That is why the decision should be made through the eyes of an outsider with no emotional attachment or involvement. Just a cold hard, business decision.

So, of course, the development box is important for the broad appeal and keeping faith with Toulouse would help build the game in France. But that expansionist zeal fades when it comes to applying another kiss of life to the struggling London Broncos, with some maybe preferring to move further north to popular Magic destination Newcastle or to York.

For a while there has been this view that to grow Super League it had to be all about expansion – but the key should be about getting 10 extremely well-run clubs with business plans and models for sporting success that run though it.

St Helens Star:

Expanding the game is important, but rugby league should not necessarily be ashamed of branding itself as the rugby of the north and be proud of its heartland clubs, as long as it backs it up with a strong brand and is not bogged down by crawling at the pace of the slowest plodder.

If we build a strong brand – even if initially largely concentrated across the M62, then other places will be clamouring for it. At the minute they are not.

The above hinted list leaves a lot of existing clubs out of the picture.

And this is where we need to stop being sentimental and stop loving the game to death.

Those clubs – even one with rich pedigrees and histories – who can’t tick the boxes should merge or drop down to the Championship until they can.

In the heartlands, a merged team at Cas-Fev-Wakefield is probably still an anathema to fans of all three clubs but the top-flight really should only take the best one of those, provided they sort out their stadium, give guarantees on crowd figures, marketing and player development.

Ignoring for one moment the self-inflicted wounds that led to the demise of Bradford Bulls, we cannot ignore the fact that this club seemed to drive the early part of Super League.

Leeds have certainly missed that rivalry with the Bulls that has never been replicated with the games against Huddersfield.

Rugby league is played in too few big cities to turn its back on a place the size of Bradford and its crowd potential, but it has been too much of a long-running saga of things going wrong for them to be rewarded with a place in the top-flight as the Bulls. That club should have been put out of its misery the last time it went belly up and a genuinely new brand should have been created.

If Bradford merged with Giants – admittedly not that close geographically - then you would have the potential of another west Yorkshire super club.

St Helens Star:

Huddersfield have struggled to fill two sides of their stadium no matter how well they play. It doesn’t matter how well the team is playing, it is not a good look when all you can see is empty seats.

Again, there will be howls, but imagine the strength that a powerhouse team comprising Bradford-Huddersfield and even Halifax could have.

If the game is to start punching its weight, all teams must contribute on the field, in youth development and enhancing their own marketing. 

For that reason from the end of the 2023 season the game should go towards licensing for both the top-flight and the Championship.

So who would make your 10 + 10?