Today Rugby League abandoned promotion and relegation for its top division, Super League, in favour of a system of franchises. The opportunity to play at the summit of the game is now not something to be won, but to be bid for every three years. The league has been enlarged to fourteen teams and the existing sides all kept their places. They will be joined by Celtic Crusaders, a team from South Wales that has only been in existence for two and a half years, and Salford, last year's relegated side.
As a Swinton fan, dislike of Salford runs deep although I can see the sense in expanding the geographical spread of the game to South Wales. However, Rugby League has never been short of paranoia and if you are a Widnes fan you might be entitled to feel that they really are out to get you.
Demoted to the second tier when Super League was first formed in order to admit a new team based in Paris, despite never being under threat of relegation if the old system had remained, the former world champions struggled financially but rebuilt the club and their stadium and won promotion. In the meantime the Paris club collapsed and disappeared. Then, though once more not in a relegation place in any other season, they were demoted again to make way for another French side, Catalan Dragons. Now, rebuilding once more with new financial backers, they have missed out to South Wales.
There is anger and disappointment amongst the other teams applying and I can't help thinking that it is all the result of abandoning the only proper way to decide a club's status, by competition on the pitch. If something as commercialised as football can live with it, why can't Rugby League?
I have been wrong about many of the changes in the sport, but this rankles. My hope now for the end of the season is for the National League One Grand Final to be between Salford and Widnes and for Salford to be soundly thrashed. It won't change anything, but boy will it be satisfying to a Swinton supporting traditionalist like me.