Super League clubs have given the go-ahead for a radical overhaul of domestic rugby league.
Representatives of the 14 current Super League clubs voted at a meeting in St Helens to cut the division to 12 at the end of the 2014 season.
This ratifies an earlier decision to scrap the much-maligned licensing system in favour of a return to automatic promotion and relegation.
The clubs also agreed to implement a convoluted proposal from the Rugby Football League which would see two divisions of 12 teams divide into three of eight two-thirds of the way through the 2015 season.
The top eight in Super League will then play off as normal for a place in the Grand Final, with the bottom four joining the top four from the Championship to play each other for the right to compete in the top flight in 2016.
Today’s decision, at a meeting chaired by RFL chairman Brian Barwick, brings to an end months of uncertainty and bitter wrangling, although it will need to be ratified by the RFL board of directors next week.
Barwick, who is also chairman of Super League (Europe), said: “I would like to thank the clubs for their contribution to what was a very fruitful and positive meeting.
“The clubs were unanimous in their view that Super League should become a 12-team competition from 2015 and that there should be meaningful movement between Super League and the Championships.
“There was a full and frank debate about the competition structures and a commitment to support the proposed format.
“The Super League clubs’ decision will now go before the RFL’s independent board of directors for ratification next week.”
The League say full details of the new structure will be announced later this month but news of the agreement will come as a big relief to all officials in the game, with the 2014 season kicking off in just three weeks’ time.
The RFL were forced to put their proposals on the back-burner in October when six Super League clubs, led by Wigan’s Ian Lenagan, walked out of a meeting, preventing a vote from being taken.
The so-called rebels were angry over plans to increase the Championship clubs’ allocation of funds from the Sky television deal and called for a greater say in the governance of the game.
The 14 Super League clubs met to discuss governance on Tuesday but the meeting broke up without any agreement and they are set to reconvene later this month.
The RFL proposals already had the backing of the Championship clubs, even though under the new format four of them will be relegated to Championship One at the end of this season to create a 12-team division.