Cap Hits Youth Development Hard

“Easy!” I can hear people saying. Do away with relegation – then clubs can promote young players into their first teams without the fear of slipping down a division.

To be quite honest I don’t follow that argument. Does the scrapping of relegation suddenly make Super League non-competitive? Of course not – so clubs will still be falling into the pit-falls of old in their rush to make the play-offs or win some silverware.

Nor do I follow arguments about closing the loop-holes in the overseas quota. It isn’t the RFL who impose these loop-holes – it’s all down to European Union Law so there’s nothing we can do about it (well, apart from getting together, forming a party, winning a general election and pulling out of the EU – but I can’t see that happening).

No – the solution to my mind is what was suggested by Maurice Lindsay over the weekend.

Lindsay feels that if players under the age of 21 did not count on the salary cap then clubs would be more inclined to bring them through into the team. This is undoubtedly true, as younger players would then become a more attractive option than overseas players.

Personally I would go further and preclude from the cap players up to age of 23. This would be such an exemption that to have a cap of 1.6 million for the rest of the squad would be fair – especially given the £2 million cap for rugby union Premiership clubs.

Yes, rugby union. Lindsay also points out that such a rule would not only make it less likely for younger players to defect to rugby union in pursuit of financial gain, but would allow us to turn the tables and sign up some of their young players. Of course the priority should be to produce our own, but it’s nice to have that option.

This is certainly something that can be done to help Great Britain’s (or England’s) chances of actually winning a series in the near future. Who knows? Maybe England could even lift the World Cup in 2012.

The Relegation Debate – Debate

So many people have had their say on the relegation debate – myself included – that I’ve decided to approach the topic from an entirely new angle. Why do we have a relegation debate, and why are we having it now?

In my opinion the debate comes as a result of the influence on our game from Australia. While rugby union and cricket are big in Australia, those sports in this country still seem to be more influenced by British sporting culture rather than Australian.

On the other hand we often look down under for inspiration. This means that while the other major sports accept promotion and relegation as a fact of life, we question it. We might not question it except that – on the pitch – the Australians are currently superior to us.

But why has the debate started now? This is something I can’t answer. Why was no-one up in arms about the foolishness, unfairness and detriment to our game of relegating Leigh Centurions and Widnes Vikings? Why was there no outcry, no outpouring of emotion from the coaches or the massed ranks of the media?

It’s an interesting question alright. Maybe the debate has more to do with individual bias than the interests of the game as a whole. If that is the case then it’s quite sad.

Lebanese Offer World Cup Boost

There was some great news this week when the Lebanese RL announced that – contrary to previous reports – they would be taking their place in the qualifiers for the 2008 Rugby World Cup.

It had been feared that Lebanon would have to pull out of the running because of the current conflict in the middle-east. That would have damaged the credibility of the competition at an early stage – especially seeing as Georgia, the West Indies and South Africa have decided not to compete.

For those countries – still at a very early stage in their development – it may not be a great concern that they are to pull out. But for Lebanon it would have been more of a shock and it can only be good to see them take their place among the elite; especially given the conflict in that country.

In my opinion the Lebanese RL deserve the congratulations of the rugby league world. Wouldn’t it be great now to see them make it all the way to the finals in Australia

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