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Andy Wilson | Fan-Pro

Rugby League Correspondent and Cricket Writer, Guardian

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Brian Barwick - 24 hours to save the Super League season

Andy Wilson     on 31 Jan 10:32 am     Rugby League     3,296   2  

So welcome to rugby league, Brian Barwick, a man who emerged from four years as chief executive of the Football Association with a record that could only be described as mixed, but whose appointment as non-executive chairman of the RFL has been welcomed by many influential figures in the game who have long been despairing about the governing body's inability to get on to the front foot.

Us journalists haven't had the chance to talk to him yet, having to make do with some quotes from one of those cringeworthy corporate interviews that are so easy to hide behind these days. So this is my only chance to make one last, despairing and possibly self-indulgent plea to Barwick, who could earn instant respect and gratitude by making one decision in his first 24 hours in charge that would breathe fresh life into the 2013 season.

Bin the top eight play-offs, Brian. Maybe you're not fully aware of them at this stage, and the insidious damage they do to the Super League season as a whole. But as a football man, I suspect you'll be appalled by the idea that a team can finish in the bottom half of a 14-team league, and still have a chance of winning the title. Far more serious, though, is the fact that supporters of the leading teams have rumbled the system – helped by Leeds's stirring success in winning the Grand Final from fifth in each of the last two seasons – and are now starting to stay away from bread and butter matches that mean not a jot.

So when Wigan play Warrington next Friday, for example, in one of the blockbuster fixtures of the season, it really won't matter much who wins. Both teams are almost certain to finish in the top four of the table come September.

This could all be sorted by a single conference call with the 14 Super League clubs on Friday, your first day in charge, to provide a massive boost hours before the start of the season. The eight-team play-off is guaranteed to be scrapped next year, with no-one very enthusiastic for it any more, and the more intelligent Super League officials downright hostile. The only reason it wasn't binned this year was that those bosses didn't get around to a proper discussion of the topic at their annual meeting, and the RFL bosses had too many other issues to worry about. Why waste another season?

If you have any doubts of just how badly the play-offs have been failing to work, ask for a DVD of the opening game of last year's set, a non-event between Wigan and the Catalans at an embarrassingly empty DW Stadium.

An alternative has been suggested which would not be too big a change to make at this late stage, but would transform both the play-offs themselves and the season as a whole. Go from top eight to top seven, but in the first round only the team who finished top would have a bye, leaving the other six to play sudden death matches. Yes, meaningful, knife-edge matches – the way play-offs should be. And finishing on top of the table would again carry a tangible reward.

Rugby league is in real danger of starting the season with a feelgood factor. New sponsors are jumping on board, Bradley Wiggins and the Extraordinary Rugby adverts have lifted the profile, new owners have invested major sums into Bradford and now Salford. And of course it's a World Cup year, with the huge opportunities that offers. But there is one irritating fly in the ointment - the fact that the 27 rounds of Super League fixtures that are about to start don't matter enough. You could sort that out immediately – and ride a wave of personal approval all the way to Old Trafford in October.

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thanks but it's not my idea, a punter came up with it some time last season and martyn sadler ran it in his column in league express. just come back from salford presser with dr koukash, very impressive
 Andy Wilson   14 months, 19 days ago
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Your top seven is a great idea. No chance of change at this late stage though!
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