McManus calls for "sensible" talks
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus is attempting to act as a peacemaker in the war that is threatening to tear rugby league apart.
A majority of Super League clubs are at loggerheads with the game's governing body, the Rugby Football League, over plans to re-structure the domestic competition.
Those plans were expected to be given the go-ahead at an extraordinary general meeting in Leeds last Wednesday but it was suddenly postponed by the RFL following a revolt led by Wigan Warriors owner Ian Lenagan in what has been seen as an attempt by the Super League clubs to wrest more control of the game, and in particular the purse strings, from the independent board of directors.
That brought a vitriolic response from several Championship clubs who stood to benefit from a re-arranged distribution of television money, as well as the restoration of automatic promotion and relegation, which is not a central issue in the dispute.
Eight of the 14 Super League clubs are thought to have attended Lenagan's hastily-arranged meeting nine days ago but McManus today sought to heal the rift by calling for "sensible" talks on the issue.
"There may be some areas of corporate governance and representation which need to be separately addressed and improved (from the current system which, ironically, was enthusiastically constructed and endorsed by Super League clubs only five years ago) and I have no doubt that these can be rationally and sensibly resolved," McManus said.
"The main issues of the day are good and positive only in their substance and outlook and I am more enthusiastic than I have ever been about our future and about our prospects."
McManus is calling on RFL chairman Brian Barwick to act as a broker to heal the rift and believes the forthcoming World Cup will provide the perfect vehicle to unite the game.
"We have a mouth-watering time ahead of us with some of the greatest rugby league players in history gracing our stadia and the platform laid by the World Cup will be followed up by a re-structuring of the fixture format of the leagues in 2015 which I believe will reignite Super League and the Championship as well as strengthening and improving the Challenge Cup," he added.
"It will produce a season where every game every week at every level will count and be competitive. It will be compelling to spectators, sponsors and the TV alike and will produce a virtuous circle commercially both centrally and for the individual clubs.
"All the Super League clubs were in favour of this at the last Super League meeting and there was unanimous agreement that this was a hugely positive and necessary step which must be adopted in the wider interests of the game.
"It must be our priority objective to compete commercially, and therefore in playing standards, with the NRL in Australia and New Zealand and to produce a financially vibrant sport.
"The new league formula will provide a great platform for this and I'm really excited about the prospect, as is everyone I speak to who has meaningful commercial input into the sport.
"It is also a great and opportune time to have a newly appointed RFL and Super League chairman in Brian Barwick, whose highest level background in media and in professional sport can assist rugby league greatly in its strategic direction and commercial strengthening. He deserves our full and unqualified backing as we seek to strengthen for the benefit of all."