Rugby League: Clubs give mandate for Premier League: Elite target is next season

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The Independent Online
THE game's professional clubs, shaken by stark evidence of their financial plight, have given their central administration a mandate to press ahead with plans for a football-style Premier League. The elite division - consisting of anything from eight to 16 clubs, although 12 or 14 look more likely - would start next season.

In what would be a major concession on the part of the clubs who will not be in it, it is intended that Premier membership will remain unchanged for three seasons.

The League's board of directors has also been charged with drawing up a minimum-standards charter covering facilities, income, crowds and management structure, to which Premier League clubs must conform within the three years and which those below must meet in order to be considered for future elevation. That clubs should even contemplate such a radical course of action shows that they now realise what was all too clear from the independent report, 'Framing the Future', presented to them this week.

The unavoidable message was that, in spite of the relative health of the game itself, its deficiencies off the field have put it on the road to ruin.

Averting that ruin is also the aim of the other task which has been delegated to the board of directors. 'To research the means by which the central authority can operate an increased financial control over clubs,' was the way the League put it yesterday.

This points to a limit on the proportion of their income that clubs will be allowed to spend on paying their players; in effect, a salary cap. It could also extend to limiting the debts and overdrafts that a club will be allowed to carry.

These are far-reaching initiatives, to which a good deal of detail needs to be added before clubs can be sure that they really wish to go so far.

The board of directors plans to finalise its proposals next Wednesday and they will then be presented to another special meeting of the clubs on 5 October.