What does Rugby League need? Perspective.

Lets get one thing absolutely clear right from the start: Rugby League is not dying, and it never will be. It is not a joke, a farce or a disgrace, and it never will be. It might not be perfect, but its positives still outweigh the negatives by a considerable amount, and don’t let the imbeciles that are constantly retweeted by @RLMeltdown try and convince you otherwise.

British Rugby League can’t flex the same financial muscle as Union or Australia’s NRL, so it will be inevitable that some of our better players will be lured away by the riches of London or Sydney. It is a short career so I don’t blame them at all, and fair play to them. It is a shame but it is not the end of the world. Even if our current TV deal was doubled we would still be some way off, but yet we still have a fantastic product, so why even worry? For every Chris Ashton there is a Sam Tomkins. For every Joel Tomkins there is a Liam Farrell, and for every Mike Cooper there is a Chris Hill…

The draw for the Tetley’s Challenge Cup is set to take place on BBC Breakfast TV on Saturday morning. The exact time for it will be confirmed at some point on Friday when the schedule is finalised, and with an average audience of 1.5 million viewers this is great exposure for the competition and the sport, and with two months until the fixtures are due to take place there is plenty of time to organise travel arrangements. So why so much outrage? What does it matter in the grand scheme of things by having the draw a week after the previous round? The answer is that it doesn’t. Not one bit. The people that are moaning about it are purely moaning for moaning’s sake. If you were one of the fans that were outraged by this issue then I would strongly advise you go for a nice cup of tea and a sit down, because there are far more important things to worry about.

I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest.

 

Should Championship clubs be Boxing clever?

 

The RFL has once again listened to its members and last week announced a review of the licensing system is underway, along with a list of potential options to take the game forward from 2015 onwards. The current system of the 3 year Licensing system was brought in with admirable intentions in 2008 to give the clubs security so they could produce young players, while clubs in the Championship could build themselves off the field in order to give SuperLeague a proper go when the right time came, a la Widnes. And while a very good crop of young British players are emerging, sadly we also found ourselves with a situation where for many clubs, their season was effectively over before the May bank holiday. 

I for one welcome the RFL’s acceptance that the licensing system hasn’t quite worked out, and their willingness to listen to their member’s ideas to take the game forward. My only reservation however is the worryingly complicated ‘option 3’, where two ‘SuperLeagues’ of 12 split in to three divisions of 8 after 11 weeks of the season. While it would undoubtedly make every game more meaningful, without a substantial amount of new money coming in to the game, we will at some point find ourselves with a division where half the teams are playing with a squad worth up to £1.8 million & 5 overseas players, and the other half with a squad worth just £300 thousand & just 1 overseas player. How would that be fair?

Having said that, no matter which option the clubs vote for none of them will realistically be viable unless the game lands a big windfall of money from somewhere. I would love to see promotion & relegation return to give the Kingstone Press Championship clubs something huge to play for every season, but at the same time it needs to be simple for fans both old and new to follow, and most importantly it needs to be financially viable for all concerned. Not an easy conundrum to solve I fully appreciate!

I have one potential suggestion. I’m going to throw it out there. If you like it, great! If you don’t then just throw it straight back… What if we brought back a straight 1 up, 1 down promotion & relegation, but the Championship clubs kick the season off on Boxing Day?

On the face of it, it does sound like a big step back to the 90’s, but if we brought the Championship season forward by two months, it would give the Grand Final winners 8 vital extra weeks to prepare for life in Superleague, they could approach out of contract players on September 1st already safe in the knowledge of their fate, and they could get half of their Sky TV money the day after their Grand Final triumph to allow them to start planning straight away. The Championship fans would have a big event to look forward to on the traditionally favourite sporting day after Christmas, and SuperLeague fans would have a chance to watch some fantastic rugby while their team are still being flogged in the hills of Tenerife (or Saddleworth).

I’m sure there would be issues to sort like potential fixture backlogs due to bad weather, the relegated SuperLeague club wouldn’t get much of an off season holiday and club shops may have to stock up on waterproof merchandise, but it could just be the ideal compromise for promotion & relegation aficionados everywhere.

What do you think…?

@GavWilson

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