A defining week for French rugby league

Edward Anderson

James Maloney (6) of Catalans Dragons celebrates scoring a drop goal to win the game 30-31

So, here we are, a week of vital importance to the future of French Rugby League and potentially the game in Europe is upon us.

Both French clubs successfully navigated semi-finals over the weekend to reach the Super League and Championship Grand Finals.

Standing in Catalans’ way of a historic title are back-to-back winners St Helens, while Featherstone are the only team that can prevent there being two French sides in Super League in 2022.

CHAMPIONSHIP: Toulouse and Featherstone through to fight for promotion to Super League

Untapped market

There is a market in France ready to capture if the game gets serious about it.

Catalan went to Barcelona and the highest regular season crowd off the back of their Challenge Cup triumph, what potential could there be for a Super League Grand Final win?

Catalan nationalist sentiment is as strong as ever and another chance to take the sport on the road should not be turned down.

One off games aside, the real prize for the game of Rugby League in France is to have two teams at the top level, with three massive games for French TV and the wider media to stick their teeth into.

Plus, having a home game every week (Toulouse one week, Dragons the next) combined with some serious internationals and the French game actually as a package worth putting together.

DERBY: Josh Drinkwater hoping for French derby in Super League

Of course, it would be very Rugby League that having finally got French Rugby League to that level we then shoot ourselves not in the foot but in the face by following this absurd idea of two leagues of ten, largely to protect teams who currently offer little to nothing in terms of the commercial viability of the sport.

Still, I am keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that once Rugby League sees what a fantastic extra selling point they have been given with two French teams, stupid notions of having them need to play in a part time league will find themselves going in the bin.

HUGE: Steve McNamara reflects on huge night for Catalans

International game

After the disaster of a World Cup postponement, something has at least been salvaged for the international calendar with France taking on England in France.

Although we’re doing it a badly as possible (for example, you cannot find the game on the RFL website) this is still a chance to show the sport off to a wider audience. I am praying that the TV figures will demonstrate that actually the casual viewer (who we really want) is not obsessed with playing Kiwis or Australia unlike us tragics.

If the figures are good then we really need to start to get serious about England playing the European nations in an annual tournament we can market, rather than we England get jilted by Australia.

Elite hopes

We’re two weeks away from Elite 1 kick off and sadly we are down to 9 teams. Covid and costs are not making it easy for the French Leagues and although many might say that it’s up to them to sort it out, there is a way we can help here.

Currently, the ambitious French teams are forced to leave the pyramid and head off to England.

But were we to work together (wild thought) we could make Elite 1 the same level on the pyramid of the Championship or League 1.

Suddenly, the route to Super League and getting some money makes spending or investing in French based clubs at least potentially viable.

With money tight, having French clubs waste money on travel and flights without the coverage or sponsors to make it worth their while is a waste. So let’s help the French league and game grow as much as possible.

It’s in our interest, even if some people can’t see it.