Leigh Centurions will play in Betfred Super League in 2021 following the unanimous decision of an independent panel led by Lord Caine.
The process to invite a 12th team to play in 2021 began on November 2 after the rejection of Toronto Wolfpack’s application to return to the competition following their withdrawal from the 2020 season.
Six applications were received by the November 30 deadline and the panel considered those on the following criteria:
Enhance the commercial value of the Super League to broadcast and sponsorship partners of Super League Europe;
Deliver value to other members of Super League;
Be competitive on the field of play;
Be sustainable for the 2021 season (and beyond); and
As a result of being in Super League, help deliver the broader Goals of the Sport as set out in the RFL Strategy Reset
Panel chairman Lord Caine said: “I was determined from the outset that this process should be robust and conducted to the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and on the basis of ‘rigorous impartiality’ between each of the applicants.
“I am more than satisfied that this was the case.
“Each application was judged strictly but fairly against the agreed criteria that were circulated to clubs and published in November.
“All of the applications were of high quality and I would like to pay tribute to the clubs for the energy and effort they have put into this exercise in what was of necessity a very short time period.”
Leigh Centurions have twice played in Super League before, in 2005 and most recently in 2017.
Super League Executive Chairman Robert Elstone added: “Six weeks after Super League clubs chose to return to a 12-team format, we are delighted to welcome Leigh Centurions to our 2021 competition.
“The independent panel was impressed by Centurions’ application which scored highly on all published criteria, and it is a credit to everyone at the club that they were able to produce such a comprehensive submission in such a demanding timeframe.
“The club has a number of top-class players with Super League experience, a great stadium and a passionate and committed fan base, all of which will add to the 2021 competition.
“I would like to thank Lord Caine for leading the process.
“It has been robust and well-managed from the outset. The panel was unanimous in what it was looking for from the new club and unanimous in awarding the 12th place to the Centurions.
“The final decision points to both the strength of Leigh Centurions’ bid and the alignment throughout the process between Super League and The RFL.
“The late and unexpected withdrawal of Toronto Wolfpack presented Super League with many challenges, in a uniquely difficult season.
“We have dealt with them expediently, comprehensively and objectively and I am pleased we can now look forward to another exciting Super League in 2021.”
Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, said: “Congratulations to Leigh Centurions, who will take the best wishes of all clubs in the Betfred Championship and League 1, as well as the Rugby Football League, as they prepare to return to the Super League in 2021.
“This process has been a credit to all involved and has underlined the quality of the clubs in the Betfred Championship – which has been such a compelling competition in recent years.
“I know the five clubs whose Super League applications have been unsuccessful will be disappointed, but I also know they will be excited by the prospect of the Betfred Championship in 2021, especially following last week’s decision to elevate Newcastle Thunder from Betfred League 1.
“The players and supporters of all clubs at this level have endured such a long and frustrating period without any action since the initial lockdown in March, but there is light at the end of the tunnel – and with a meeting of Championship and League 1 clubs later this week, we hope to be able to provide further details of the plans for 2021 very soon.”