Robert Elstone told Super League must grow or the game could 'wither on the vine'

And the first thing the competition's new chief executive will do is get rid of the Super 8s, as SunSport revealed in May.

Former Everton powerbroker Elstone has been given the job of breathing new life into rugby league's top tier after clubs seized more power from the Rugby Football League – even though Leeds Rhinos are not on board.

And Rhinos’ chief Gary Hetherington issued a withering blast, appearing to dispute that a change to promotion and relegation with one up and one down was voted through with an 11-1 majority.

He fumed: "Today’s announcement regarding plans for next season appear to be an absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game.

"Leeds Rhinos are not party to this and are totally against the creation of a separate Super League executive. Super League clubs voted seven to five at our last meeting on some key issues related to promotion and relegation."

SunSport, however, has been told that a formal vote to change the system did in fact go through 11-1 and the 7-5 that he talks about was only a straw poll on whether to do it as a straight up and down system or through a play-off game – and no formal decision has been made.

Now as he has the structure of the game, the fixture calendar and the all-important TV deal with Sky which expires in 2021 on his desk, Elstone has been warned it has to work.

St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said: "We need to improve every facet of Super League in terms of the quality of the product on the pitch with the players, the officiating in conjuncture with the RFL, and the commercial performance.

“We want to do it in a dedicated manner with very high quality management – focused on Super League has a much greater chance of achieving that objective.

"As a result of that the entire game must benefit, if the elite competition is more successful, by definition it filters down. If it doesn't, we will wither on the vine.

"Super League was on a par with the NRL, now we're way behind and we cannot leave it any longer."

Wigan's Ian Lenagan put the blame at the RFL, saying: "Super League's been neglected by the lack of focus. That's caused the deterioration over the last 10 years."

Warrington's Simon Moran, himself a concert promoter, added: "The whole of Super League needs a reboot. We've got to make it exciting."

First decision Elstone has made is to ditch the Super 8s, where the top flight splits after 23 rounds with the top eight fighting it out for the Grand Final and the bottom four facing the Championship's top four.

From 2019, clubs are expected to play each other home and away, with Magic Weekend and then six fixtures drawn randomly. Promotion and relegation will stay, with the top two of the Championship possibly facing each other in a Million Pound Game.

Elstone, a dyed in the wool Castleford fan who admits this is the only job he would have left Everton for, will work closely with the RFL but will look to grow Super League's income off the field and believes he will attract larger sponsorship deals, starting with how it looks to broadcasters.

He said: "The most important thing this game can do is be prepared and be absolutely on the money when we sit down with broadcasters. Opportunities are only there if you go with a fantastic product.

"The main priority is getting that absolutely right and the next structure has to stay. I've been watching the game for almost 50 years and change has been too frequent.

"We look at the format as the panacea for the game and I don't think it is but when the Super 8s were announced, I as a fan from semi-distance said, 'I need to work this out.'

"One of the most disappointing games for me last year was the first round of Super 8s. Cas were fantastic but there was only 5,500 people there. That level of jeopardy with dropping into the 'Middle Eight' is just too great."

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