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Who should become Super League’s 12th team?

Applications are now closed for the vacant Super League spot following the removal of Toronto Wolfpack.

To be eligible for promotion the replacement club must have either played in Super League, or finished in the top six of the Championship in 2018 or 2019; and be able to boast an average attendance of at least 2,000 in that time, with a minimum stadium capacity of 5,000.

A final decision will be taken by a six-person panel chaired by Lord Jonathan Caine, with a decision expected by December 16.

We look at the advantages and disadvantages of the applications made by York City Knights, London Broncos, Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers, Leigh Centurions and Toulouse Olympique. 

York City Knights

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Pros

York City Knights have been one of most impressive lower league sides in the last couple of years, finishing third in the 2019 Championship after being promoted from League One a season earlier. 

They will be moving to the new York Community Stadium which they will share with non-league football team York City. The Knights are the main sporting attraction for local fans. 

Cons

Due to the twelfth team receiving less funding than the established Super League clubs, York may find it difficult to attract players. 

They are near to established Super League club Leeds Rhinos, and the addition of another Yorkshire side could be seen as a move which is not increasing the geographic location of the game.

London Broncos

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Pros

They have retained Danny Ward, one of the best English coaches in the game, despite interest from Salford. Although they were relegated in 2018 from the top-flight, they were more competitive than many expected, being relegated with a loss in the final game of that season. 

While player recruitment could be a challenge if they don’t use the whole salary cap, London has a rich history of Academy players coming through and going on to have strong careers.

Cons

Although many see having a strong London outfit as key to growing the game in the south of England, attendances were still disappointing in the Broncos last Super League stint. There’s nothing to suggest this would drastically improve were they chosen.  

Their average attendance in 2019 was just over 2,000, around half of the capacity of the Ealing Trailfinders ground. Opposition coaches often spoke out about the impact of the artificial surface causing injuries to players. 

Bradford Bulls

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Pros

Bradford have an outstanding Super League history, having won four titles and three World Club Challenges, before administration took its toll with the club spending time playing League One in 2018. 

They have an impressive Academy with the likes of Sam Burgess, John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead shining in the NRL, as well as Super League. This pathway will serve them well when it comes to developing local talent. 

Cons

They currently don’t have their own ground having to play at Dewsbury, with the Rugby Football League still owning Odsal Stadium following the Bulls entering administration. If selected, the RFL would need to ensure that the Bulls play at their regular home ground.

Considering their recent financial problems, unless John Kear’s men are self-sustainable, it would not be the best look for the League given Toronto Wolfpack were shunned for failing to pay their players on time. 

Featherstone Rovers

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Pros

Featherstone could arguably be the strongest contender of the lot they should be in Super League. That’s due to the fact they lost to Toronto in the 2019 Million Pound game. They have consistently challenged at the top end of the Championship in the last few years. 

Therefore, it’s clear they would be able to be competitive in the top-flight and not just make up the numbers, with an impressive playing group including Craig Kopczak, Craig Hall and Thomas Minns. 

Cons

It could be argued that Rovers are also indebted to their dual registration link with Leeds Rhinos with the likes of Harry Newman and Alex Sutcliffe starting for James Webster’s side last season. Their participation in Super League will see this partnership come to an end.

With two neighbouring sides Castleford and Wakefield already established in the top-flight, it could be said that Super League has that area of Yorkshire covered, and Rovers are unlikely to gain any more fans because of their presence. 

Leigh Centurions

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Pros

Having competed in Super League recently and survived, Leigh could stay in the top-flight with their outspoken owner Derek Beaumont not afraid to spend cash and provide the club with big-money signings. 

Their stadium is at Super League standard, one of the biggest in the second tier. They will continue to attract fans with an average of 3,241 in 2019, and have many community links with local schools and charities. 

Cons 

Despite their impressive current squad and the signings they would make if chosen for Super League, it’s difficult to see the Centurions progressing beyond a consistently mid-table side. 

With their proximity to Wigan, as with Featherstone and Bradford, it seems as Super League has that region accounted for, and Leigh’s presence would not have any material impact on the growth of the game. 

Toulouse Olympique 

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Pros

Being a French side, there’s an attraction to give Toulouse the twelfth spot to complement Catalans Dragons, adding further weight behind any TV deal negotiated overseas. 

As with Featherstone, they have consistently impressed in the second tier, finishing second in 2019 and having a perfect record from five games in 2020 before the season was cancelled. 

Cons

With these current times providing increasingly difficult for travel abroad, teams may find it difficult to travel to and from Toulouse for matches. 

This was demonstrated with Catalans playing the majority of their 2020 fixtures in England. Super League will want to avoid any further logistical headaches. 

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