sport

Super League cut to 12 teams

Super League will be reduced from 14 to 12 teams at the end of this season.

There will also be 12 teams in the Championship and next season will see the two twelves split in to three groups of eight after the 23 regular rounds.

The eights will then play off against each other to decide the Super League champions, who is relegated and who is promoted between divisions.

The new structure has been agreed by the existing Super League clubs and will be ratified at an RFL board meeting next week.

Super League scrapped promotion and relegation back in 2008, and the new structure would see smaller clubs given the chance of gaining promotion to the top flight.

The top eight in Super League will then play off as normal for a place in the Grand Final, with the bottom four joining the top four from the Championship to play each other for the right to compete in the top flight in 2016.

Uncertainty

Friday's decision, at a meeting chaired by RFL chairman Brian Barwick, brings to an end months of uncertainty and bitter wrangling, although it will need to be ratified by the RFL board of directors next week.

Barwick, who is also chairman of Super League (Europe), said: "I would like to thank the clubs for their contribution to what was a very fruitful and positive meeting.

"The clubs were unanimous in their view that Super League should become a 12-team competition from 2015 and that there should be meaningful movement between Super League and the Championships.

"There was a full and frank debate about the competition structures and a commitment to support the proposed format.

"The Super League clubs' decision will now go before the RFL's independent board of directors for ratification next week."

The League say full details of the new structure will be announced later this month but news of the agreement will come as a big relief to all officials in the game, with the 2014 season kicking off in just three weeks' time.

The RFL was forced to put its proposals on the back-burner in October when six Super League clubs, led by Wigan's Ian Lenagan, walked out of a meeting, preventing a vote from being taken.

Rebels

The so-called rebels were angry over plans to increase the Championship clubs' allocation of funds and called for a greater say in the governance of the game.

The 14 Super League clubs met to discuss governance on Tuesday but the meeting broke up without any agreement and they are set to reconvene later this month.

The RFL proposals already had the backing of the Championship clubs, even though under the new format four of them will be relegated to Championship One at the end of this season to create a 12-team division.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington had always supported the move, and he accused those that did not of "holding a gun to the head of the sport" after they walked out of a meeting in October to prevent a vote being taken

"Everybody is relieved and pleased that there has been a positive outcome and looking forward to starting the new season without all the uncertainty," Hetherington said.

"Everybody now knows where we are going to be in the forthcoming season. It has still to be ratified by the RFL board of directors but there was a majority vote from the Super League clubs and there was unanimous support from the Championship clubs so it should be a rubber-stamping exercise."

Lenagan, who led October's walkout amid calls for a greater say by Super League clubs in the running of the game, was also pleased to see the deadlock broken.

"I think it's definitely progress." Lenagan told Sky Sports News. "Exchange of different views is only good for the game. I come out of the talks with a positive view."