Super League to feature 12 teams in 2021

By Sports Desk November 03, 2020

The Super League board has voted unanimously in favour of admitting a 12th team to the competition in 2021. 

The decision comes a day after Super League clubs voted against readmitting Toronto Wolfpack after they withdrew due to financial difficulties in July, shortly before the league was scheduled to resume after the coronavirus-enforced break. 

The Canadian club's results up to that point were expunged and the competition resumed with an 11-team format.

A replacement 12th team will be welcomed next year, though, while the board also voted in favour of a 27-round regular season, including 'Magic Weekend', which sees an entire round of fixtures played at the same stadium. 

A Super League statement said the process for finding the 12th team would begin soon and the decision will be made by a committee headed by an independent chairman. 

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone said: "We are committed to ensuring that the process is independent and impartial, and stands up to scrutiny, and accordingly, ensuring the committee is properly constituted and clearly mandated is our first priority."

Featherstone Rovers, Toulouse Olympique and York City Knights have each already announced their interest in joining the competition.

It was announced earlier on Tuesday that this season's Super League had been cut short, with a revised play-off format introduced after further positive coronavirus tests at Castleford Tigers and Hull KR.

The top six clubs will now qualify for the play-offs, with the team that finishes seventh – Salford Red Devils or Huddersfield Giants – remaining on standby in case of further planning issues caused by COVID-19.

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    Manchester City "lost sight of the historic values of the club" when they signed up to the doomed European Super League, according to chief executive Ferran Soriano.

    City were one of 12 clubs to send shockwaves through football by being confirmed as founding members of the doomed breakaway on Sunday.

    Widespread criticism from within football – including pointed remarks from City manager Pep Guardiola – and beyond prompted a rethink from those involved, with the Premier League leaders the first of the English top flight's 'big six' to formally confirm their U-turn amid a string of dramatic developments on Tuesday.

    A one-paragraph, 25-word statement on the club website did little to placate fan anger, something Soriano has sought to address in an email to club members.

    "I am sorry it has taken a little time, but the circumstances have been somewhat exceptional and it was important to me to contact you directly," Soriano wrote in a statement that began "Dear Supporter".

    "As always, when we make choices and decisions, we do so with the best interests of the club in mind and we believed that being part of such an initiative could give us a voice that might be imperative to our future ability to succeed and grow."

    At his news conference to preview Wednesday's Premier League match at Aston Villa, Guardiola criticised the closed-shop element of the planned Super League, remarking that a competition without the link between effort and success is "not sport" – something Soriano claimed he and his colleagues in the boardroom "failed to remind ourselves of".

    "In making that choice we failed to remind ourselves of the unbreakable link between the passion of our fans and the right to have the opportunity to earn success," he continued.

    "It is a truth that is fundamental to the DNA of Manchester City and the board deeply regrets taking a decision that lost sight of the historic values of the club. We made a mistake and we sincerely apologise to our fans for the disappointment, frustration and anguish caused by the last 72 hours.  

    "I want to personally assure you that the owners, chairman, board and staff are completely committed to ensuring that the club continues to contribute meaningfully to the ongoing well-being of both the English and European football pyramids and their associated competitions. 

    "We will embrace the opportunity to earn back the full trust of our stakeholders and the football family in general."

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    Joel Glazer, United's co-chair, signed a message to fans on their official website – the first direct communication with fans from the club's owning family since 2005.

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    "I'm extremely disappointed and embarrassed and a little surprised," he said. "They're good owners, the people at City, I think. They don't need the money, frankly.

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    Last year, partially in response to the challenges of the pandemic, Bernstein was part of an eight-person group also including Gary Neville and Great Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, that put forward a "Manifesto for Change", which called for a new regulatory body independent of English football's existing structure.

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    "Why are some of these clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, with all their wealth and income, in such financial difficulty? Because they're paying massive wages in spite of COVID, in spite of income having been reduced for all the reasons we know.

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    "Clubs always go on about not exploiting fans but, actually, in many cases they do – in terms of the size of ticket prices, the cost of merchandise and so on."

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    "Pep is in a strong position, he is almost untouchable. It's very good that he did it, as Jurgen Klopp did as well," he added.

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    Milan are back in action at home to Sassuolo on Wednesday, with solidifying a spot in the top four the priority for head coach Stefano Pioli – irrespective of what that might now mean in the greater scheme of things.

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