sport

Barwick optimistic for future

Rugby Football League chairman Brian Barwick is predicting a bright new future for the game as clubs prepare to kick off Super League XIX.

On the day the 2014 First Utility Super League season is launched in Manchester, Barwick points to a triple boost to support his boast that the sport he joined 12 months ago is set to enter an era of sustained success.

Super League last week secured a bumper new television deal with Sky from 2017-21, which came shortly after clubs agreed to adopt a radical new competition structure from next year and First Utility were unveiled as the new title sponsors.

"The whole sport has embraced a fantastic new future over the last couple of months and I feel privileged and proud to be a part of it," Barwick said.

"We ended the 2013 season with two memorable Grand Finals involving Championship and Super League clubs and the game has been on a roll ever since.

"As well as delivering the most successful Rugby League World Cup of all time, securing a lead sponsor for Super League and other new partners and hitting our participation targets with Sport England, we have also signed a broadcast contract this week which reflects the faith, confidence and admiration there is for the quality of the product delivered by our Super League clubs."

Two clubs will be relegated from Super League at the end of the 2014 season to make way for the new structure, which will see the top two divisions of 12 teams split into three of eight after 23 rounds, and Barwick is confident the convoluted new format will be a hit.

"Over the last couple of months we have tried to build a positive path for the future, firstly by restructuring the game from 2015," he said.

"I think it will be a tremendous success and will deliver competitive games all the way to final hooter of the season. I believe in it and it would appear that so, too, do a great many others.

"There are hearts and minds still to be won and that's a challenge we are determined to meet."

The blot on the horizon is the financial crisis engulfing two of the 14 Super League clubs, Bradford and Wakefield, while London Broncos have been forced to virtually build a new team from scratch after almost folding in the close season.

However, Barwick believes the new television deal will give all the clubs a chance to prosper.

"Whilst it's clear that some clubs just have to try harder to manage their affairs better, the new broadcast deal delivered this week gives the whole game an opportunity to put some of those issues behind them," he added.