Rugby league’s motto is the greatest game.
Unless of course, you’re creating an advert for the new Super League season.
Because then we need to bring in sports stars from elsewhere to promote it. The Brownlee brothers joined Bradley Wiggins and Mark Webber as high profile endorsees of the game as it desperately seeks approval from the wider public.
Our wide belief is that the on-field product of rugby league is superior to that of other sports, yet we aren’t confident to simply use that as a way of promoting it.
We yearn for our players to have profile and gain commercial deals – yet we don’t even use supposedly our finest player, Man of Steel Luke Gale, to promote the new season. If the sport itself won’t use him to promote, then why is a potential sponsor going to do so?
Rugby league is gripped by paranoia. The ongoing conspiracy over media coverage, even though the sport actually does pretty well for column inches considering; the worry that we’re perceived as a northern sport despite the fact that’s exactly why the sport was born and that ultimately it doesn’t really matter where teams are from; the desperate search for expansion that takes in wildly ambitious and sometimes downright crazy plans that come about from anyone willing to throw some cash at the sport.
Yes we need to expand, yes it’s not a northern sport anymore. But don’t be afraid of who you are and what you are. If St Helens v Wigan is the best and biggest game, then shout about it. When people are watching the product on TV and it’s exciting, they aren’t worried about where those teams are from. Just look at all the fans of the NFL, who would probably struggle to pinpoint Jacksonville or Minnesota on a map, yet follow the sport religiously from afar week in, week out.
With the RFL searching for a new chief executive, the much fancied Eddie Hearn’s comments are perhaps indicative of what rugby league doesn’t realise.
“Rugby league has a huge fanbase.”
Yet we’re permanently seeking approval from elsewhere when in fact, we should be shouting more about what we’ve got. And if other people don’t want to join in, then that’s their loss.