With the majority of clubs well and truly feeling the financial pinch throughout Rugby League in this country, it is no wonder that the subject of money is high on the agenda for the Championship 1 clubs ahead of the new season.
Contract money is a contentious subject that causes differences in opinion amongst the individual clubs, fans and coaches, and when you consider that the gates for all of the lower division teams continue to struggle to make it anywhere near four figures, then it comes as no surprise to learn that some clubs are now unable to pay out the big money.
Unable or not, we still find that some players are demanding the big sums that were paid out as recently as last year in certain instances, but there comes a point when the clubs have to say enough is enough and that they will live within their means.
The coaches that are working within the clubs that are still managing to pay the contract money will no doubt have very few issues with paying the money, as they will be able to attract the better players, but for the coaches at clubs were the money is simply not available, then the situation continues to prove to have a major impact on recruitment.
I can certainly speak from experience and I’m sure that the other ‘non contract money’ paying coaches in Championship 1 will agree that until the sports’ governing body set some strict guidelines, then the division will continue to be an unfair playing field.
It is worth remembering that the players in this division are part time players and hold down day jobs for the majority of their money but it is no surprise that the players who put their bodies on the line week in week out want to earn as much as possible from the game for the undoubted effort that they put in. So when they demand contract money, or signing on fees, can we blame them? The lads are only looking at what is best for their families, and I can certainly speak for my own players at Rochdale Hornets when I say that for the effort that they put in, there is very little financial reward.
Unfortunately, if you haven’t got it, you can’t spend it, and although I would love the opportunity to go out and spend somebody else’s money to buy a team capable of winning the division, I value the club itself too much to let a season of overspending send the club to the ground. It does mean however that I have to work extra hard to get the best out of the players that I do have at the club, and that goes for my coaching counterparts within the division at clubs like Gateshead Thunder and Doncaster.
The clubs that continue to pay the big bucks are always going to be able to sign the most talented of players, as unfortunately the other clubs simply cannot compete for those signatures. It continues to frustrate me therefore that recognition for success always seems to go to towards the clubs that have been able to ‘beat off’ the competition to sign the best players available, and in turn perform at the top of the competition.
Generally, the awards for individual players and coaches follows the same routine, and in a day and age when success shouldn’t be able to be bought, to a large extent, it still is. I think it important that we keep some sort of perspective as to what exactly is deemed as success. Working with a group of players and improving them is surely at the very least as successful and paying the money to recruit the biggest talents, and winning the league? I suppose it’s open to interpretation, but I know in my own mind, which coaches within the division deserve the most credit.
In 2010, the final league table had somewhat of a familiar feel to it with the clubs that were paying out the bigger sums finishing at the top end, and those clubs paying win and lose money finishing at the lower end. There were some exceptions of course with Workington finishing higher than Swinton and of course my own club Rochdale finishing within the play offs. But low spenders London and Gateshead again propped up the table.
Across the board, crowd figures amongst all of the teams were very similar so it does beg the question, how does one team pay substantial contract money are large match bonuses, and the other scrape through the season paying match terms. It’s not for me to point the finger as I have my own club to look but it remains to be seen this coming season whether we will see the balance shift towards good coaching rather than overspending.