COVENTRY Bears could come up against French side Toulouse Olympique next season following proposed changes to the Kingstone Press League 1.
Rugby League’s most geographically diverse competition could have a bold new look in 2016 with the introduction of a Super 8s-style format.
And the league could have a cross-Channel flavour with the proposed introduction of Toulouse, who competed in the Championship between 2008 and 2011.
The French side have been offered a place in League 1 for next season and discussions for their return to UK competition are close to completion.
Should Toulouse agree to the conditions of their entry, League 1 will become a 15-team competition that will provide eight clubs with a minimum 22-match season and seven clubs with a minimum 21 matches.
The season will see 15 clubs splitting into two pools at the end of the regular season. Each team will play each other once over 15 weeks before dividing into a League 1 Super 8 and a seven-team League 1 Shield.
In the League 1 Super 8, teams play each other once with the top four teams having four home fixtures and the bottom four having three home fixtures.
After seven matches, first will play second in the League 1 Promotion Final with the winning team promoted. The losing team will enter a four-club play-off with a home fixture against the fifth-placed team whilst second plays third. The winners of those two matches will then contest a play-off final for the second promotion place.
In the League 1 Shield, the teams will play each other once (three home and three away) before the first- and second-placed teams compete in a play-off final for the League 1 Shield trophy.
“I have been involved with the other CEO’s in new talks on League structure and feel that is another exciting step forward for the Bears,” said Bears managing director Alan Robinson.
“The new format will give clubs an opportunity to develop on merit and also have a better chance at silverware so that has to be a good thing.
“The addition of French club Toulouse Olympique will add some more geographical diversity to the competition and allow us to market the club in new ways.”
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood believes the new structure is a natural evolution of the format that is currently generating considerable excitement and uncertainty of outcome in Super League and the Championship.
The RFL remains in dialogue with a Canadian consortium which is looking to enter a Toronto-based team into Kingstone Press League 1 from 2017 onwards and continues to carry out due diligence with all interested parties.