Last year the English Superleague competition cut its competing number of teams down from 14 to 12 and reduced the regular season from 27 games to 23. But they came up with a bold new concept to make up for the missing games and called it Super 8’s.
The top 8 sides at the end of the regular season would play every other top 8 side once more, thus creating an extra seven games. The competition points they accrued in the regular season would remain and for the Super 8’s and teams would be playing to accrue enough points to reach the top four after the Super 8’s had ended, so they could then play in the finals to determine the Champion side.
The problem with this concept is that it’s stupid. In the two seasons that it has been in place, the eighth placed side has had to somehow win at least 4 games more than the fourth placed side, just to match them on points. While it is a possibility, it’s a very slim one given their only opponents are all sides better than them. In 2015 the Super 8’s confirmed that the top 4 sides after the regular season were still the top 4 sides after Super 8’s. In 2016 the exact same thing has happened again.
This raises the question; why have the Super 8’s? Why not go straight into the finals and save the players bodies?
Furthermore, with 12 teams competing, why have 23 rounds. It means one team will have to play another three times in the regular season. It’s just nonsense and not a fair system at all. The competition would be better served by having 22 Rounds and a top 5 finals series.
Given that Rugby League in England on a weekly basis doesn’t draw large crowds, flooding the market with more of the product only serves to devalue it further and at the risk of shortening player’s careers. In short, longer seasons are doing more harm than good for the game.
This Super 8’s concept is also used in a slightly modified manner to determine which teams are relegated and promoted across divisions. Again this is unnecessary. Why not have the bottom four sides of the higher division play the top 4 of the lower, with all games elimination matches.
Superleague 12th v Championship 1st
Superleague 11th v Championship 2nd
Superleague 10th v Championship 3rd
Superleague 9th v Championship 4th
When you consider that all these teams also compete in the Challenge Cup competition, which can see some sides playing 3 or 4 games as well, the toll on players and clubs starts to become absurd.
If a top side in the Superleague played in the Grand Final and the Challenge Cup Final they would play 23 regular season games, 7 Super 8’s games, 2 finals, 4 Challenge Cup and 1 World Club Challenge game for a total of 37 games. That is simply excessive and absurd.
The game needs to find a way to ensure that the dramas that have besieged once great sides like Bradford don’t become commonplace. Cutting down in the number of games will go a long way to alleviating some of those concerns, not to mention reducing the impact on players and would make the game a slightly more rare treat which would have a positive effect on crowd figures.