Decision at the Rugby Football League’s extraordinary general meeting brings an end to the Super 8s.
The Super 8s have been axed in favour of a return to the traditional one-up, one-down system of promotion and relegation.
Clubs voted by a majority of two to one at an extraordinary general meeting in Manchester to change the game’s domestic structure with just three weeks left of the 2018 season.
It means the radical Super 8s has been ditched after four years and the Super League Grand Finalists in 2019 will be determined by a five-club play-off.
All teams will play each other once home and away and there will be six “loop” fixtures in addition to the Magic Weekend which will give all clubs 29 fixtures.
The move was opposed by Leeds and the majority of Championship and League 1 clubs during a vitriolic debate which followed a move by Super League clubs to take control of their own destiny and appoint their own chief executive in Robert Elstone.
A deal to change the structure and put in place new financial arrangements for life beyond the next television deal was brokered by Elstone and Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer and was passed in a secret convoluted ballot by 36.8 votes to 17.2.
Rimmer said: “I would hope it’s done and dusted now – the board have convened and ratified the decision.
“There’s a sense of relief because I think we’ve got a lot more positives in the sport to celebrate than the kind of discussions we’ve had in recent months.
“It’s a line in the sand as far as I’m concerned.”
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan, who led the move to ditch the Super 8s, described his feeling as “total and utter relief”.
“I think it’s very positive for rugby league,” he said. “I think it’s a big positive for rugby league generally.
“We’ve probably spent 12 months marking time.
“Now we can get on with driving the game of rugby league – and particularly Super League – forward.
“It was 66 per cent in favour which is rather good. There had to be at least four Championship clubs and there were significantly more than that.”
Elstone says the vote has given him a mandate to make changes and he issued a call for unity.
“There’s clearly an element of relief because there’s a phenomenal amount of work gone into this over the last three months,” he said. “That uncertainty hasn’t been good for the game and we need unity.
“The job starts now for the RFL and me because now we know where we’re going and where we are – it’s about delivering on these lofty visions we have.
“It’s important we’ve got that mandate. I came back into rugby league because I passionately believe in it.
“Super League is the pinnacle of it but I’m here to make rugby league as good as it can be.”
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington declined to comment after the meeting, saying he would reflect on the outcome before making any comment.
Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell, a member of the Championship and League 1 advisory panel which led the opposition to the RFL proposal, expressed his disappointment over the failure of the non-Super League clubs to provide a united front but called for the game to unite.
“I’m struggling to see why they would go with the proposal to be honest but everybody has got their own circumstances,” Campbell said.
“We’ve lost the vote but it’s been a good process and we’ve done all we could to give everybody the information we thought they needed to know. It’s been a fair vote and we’ve got to get behind it now.”
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