Knights boss Phil Gardner has labelled the mooted introduction of a conference system in an expanded NRL competition as "kite-flying", declaring the club will "under no circumstances" support splitting the premiership in two in the future.
The controversial idea of expanding the existing 16-team competition by adding two new teams in Brisbane and New Zealand before bringing in a Sydney-based and a non-Sydney-based conference system with nine teams in each has been floated as a potential way forward for the NRL.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys says the concept is only a talking point at this stage and it will be at least four years at the earliest before one of the code's biggest restructures would be implemented if it was to get the green light.
From the Knights perspective, if it was to go ahead, the club would be forced to play in the non-Sydney conference with games home and away against Canberra, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Brisbane Broncos, Cowboys, Warriors, a second Brisbane team and a second New Zealand team.
They would play against the nine Sydney clubs just once during the season.
The two conferences would play a separate final series involving the four leading teams in each conference with the winners of both conferences to meet in a "Superbowl" grandfinal.
Under the system, it would be impossible for two Sydney clubs or two non-Sydney clubs to meet in the decider.
Asked about the concept, Gardner was emphatic about the club's position.
"Under no circumstances will we support splitting into conferences," he told the Newcastle Herald. "I'm not concerned about it because I think it's just kite-flying.
"It looks a very long bow and I don't think our fans should be worried either."
Gardner said there is still a lot of work to be done before two new franchises are accepted into the competition.
"The first thing the clubs need to see from the NRL is a business plan for the second Brisbane team to see what impact they will have on the competition," he said.
"Provided everything is ticked off there, then they need to get a business plan happening for the second team in New Zealand. Who is going to fund a second side in New Zealand and how is it going to work?
"There's got to be a financial plan for both new franchises that shows the existing 16 clubs are going to be better off having them in the competition. If those 16 clubs are worse off, it's not going to happen."
Gardner says if having two new clubs is viable, the Knights will be supportive.
"We would support new clubs in Brisbane and New Zealand if it was shown that all clubs would be better off," he said.
"But regardless of our self-interest or anything else, we don't think playing in conferences is in the best interests of the game as a whole.
"We believe it will reduce the interest in the game. Other people will have different opinions - that's our view and I believe it is also the view of our fans."
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