Editor’s column: Can a Leigh Leopard change its spots?
Whatever you make of Leigh’s rebrand to the Leopards, they have been the most talked about club in the off-season.
It has been almost eerily quiet on the Super League front in January, though I’m assured that the promotion is due to kick in later this week with a fortnight to go until the season. Of course, it’s pointless going massive on promotion when there are no games to go to, and it will be interesting to see just how much coverage Sky Sports give to the build up to the season.
Leigh will have their day on February 17, when they open their campaign against Salford in front of Scouting for Girls and a big crowd at Leigh Sports Village, hoping that they can make it fourth time lucky and for the first time, earn a second season in Super League.
The birth of Leigh Leopards
In some ways, the re-brand to Leigh Leopards is largely irrelevant to the wider rugby league public. If more fans and sponsors back the club as a result of a change, then it is a success. Even more so if the early signs of further player development and participation at youth level continue.
That being said, it’s certainly been a clunky change and a far cry from a professional re-branding exercise. But there are disruptors in all walks of life, and while it may have been an accidental benefit of the way things have gone, the proof will be in the pudding.
You would hope that over time, all of the things that have been slow to come to fruition – a website, social media handles and communications – will eventually settle down.
To not have had a website sorted by now is disappointing, particularly as that should be the main gateway for people to buy tickets and merchandise. If you search Leigh Leopards on Google, it takes you to the Centurions website which hasn’t even been updated since Leigh earned promotion to Super League.
The logo will quickly become outdated, as it already seems to be behind the times. The new home kit is an abomination, but the training wear with, how should we say, more subtle leopard features is an early pointer to how actually, the re-brand could be a success.
The motivation for the re-brand has been steered by club owner, Derek Beaumont. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of market analysis or scientific theory behind doing so.
But Beaumont puts his money where his mouth is, and like it or not, rugby league would be in a much better place if it had 10 or 20 more people like him willing to invest in improving a club at the expense of their own wealth.
They have been close to doing some things really well. Last week, they announced that their new mascot would be called Leeto.
This was thought up by a young supporter, who had submitted his idea to the club.
A great bit of fan engagement – but unfortunately, the club had previously announced a shortlist of names and asked for fans to vote for the winner.
Beaumont said: “We wanted fans to engage in naming the new mascot and whilst this proposal comes from only one person, and has not been voted on by the wider members, the board was unanimous that it should be used as the mascot’s name.”
The thought was there, the execution could have been better. Time will tell if it improves.
It may prove to be a coincidental consequence, but all the talk about the re-brand to Leigh Leopards could be a useful distraction away from what is a well-assembled squad that will certainly not be the easy beats that Leigh have sometimes been on previous Super League excursions. Anyone turning up to the LSV for an easy ride in 2023 is sure to be disappointed.
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No M62, no party
It was the Championship and League 1 media launch at Keighley last week, and you’ll have noticed two clubs conspicuous by their absence from the official Championship photograph.
I appreciate the logistics involved of getting players from all over to one location, but the ‘can’t be arsed’ approach is hardly likely to be attractive to sponsors or possible investors, nor does it help shrug off the ‘M62 sport’ image. It only takes one player from each team to be present, and given there are players in both London and Toulouse’s squads that hail from the north, it wouldn’t have been too difficult for them to tie in some sort of family visit to make it worthwhile. Toulouse even announced the signing of Hull KR forward Greg Richards the day after, when he was presumably still in England.
The Super League launch will happen without the champions St Helens too. Here’s hoping they at least send a fringe first teamer who doesn’t make the cut for Australia to at least stand in on the photos.
It’s all in the name
There’s a growing number of social media accounts popping up discussing rugby league and trying to spread the word, and it’s great to see.
One Australian based channel, The Cast Patrol, posed the question over the weekend – should the NRL have players’ last names on the back of jerseys?
Should the NRL have players last names on the jerseys? 🏉👕
Putting a name to the game. What are your thoughts? 📝#rugby #rugbyleague #nrl #nrlfinals #nrl2023 #nrl23 #nrl2023season #playernames #sportsjerseys #jerseys #jerseynrl #nrlmerch #podcast #auspodcast #sportspod pic.twitter.com/25fvlEn7Xd
— The Cast Patrol (@thecastpatrol) January 30, 2023
To me, it’s a no brainer. The NRL must be the only major sports league in the world that doesn’t do this. Even cricket went against years of tradition to introduce names and numbers to help identify their stars.
Even if the NRL doesn’t adopt squad numbers (perhaps for the best after the Australia nonsense at the World Cup), having names above the 1-17 numbers would certainly help with accessibility and identifying players for casual observers.
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