Conspiracy Theory

I ended up watching the film Conspiracy Theory the other evening. You’ve probably not seen the film, in fact it wasn’t the best film despite the ‘A’ list cast of Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts.nnAnyway, Mel Gibson plays this guy called Jerry Fletcher, a New York cab driver, who sees conspiracies everywhere. From NASA engineering earthquakes to the fact that all serial killers have two names, yet assassins have three (Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark David Chapman) he believes it all. I wondered, being an Aussie, if Mel Gibson’s character was inspired by Rugby League supporters.nnEvery supporter believes that Rugby League is bent. The RFL is up to something, generally fixing the game to an outcome they enjoy. We all know that they have been fixing the challenge cup draw for years, keeping their favourite teams apart until the final, making sure there are two all Super League ties in each round for the BBC, plus the odd tie set-up for the shock knockout. Does anybody else remember seeing Jonathon Davies pretend the balls were hot live on TV during the draw?nnAt the moment supporters of each club involved in the license process believe that the RFL have a hidden agenda. Most seem certain that they want a Welsh team in at any cost. Despite Celtic Crusaders, according to many experts, not scoring as many points as any other applicant. If the RFL wanted them in Super League why bother with the whole process? They just added teams like Paris, Gateshead and Catalans. Why not do the same with Celtic?nnGrowing up, and living still, in Widnes, I live in the hub of conspiracy theories. The people of Widnes actually believe the RFL hates, and have conspired against, them for years. But when you dig deeper into the facts (or half-truths) it is easy to see why.nnWithout doubt, the whole Super League debacle on its formation was fixed. To simplify matters, Widnes were in, out, in, out, shake it all about, merge with Warrington or we’ll kick you out… Finally Widnes are in. I remember the game (Good Friday I think) when both chairmen of the retrospective clubs announced the decision to a delighted crowd. But at the end of the season they weren’t as they wanted a French team.nnIronically, Widnes then lost their last place in Super League to make way for the latest French outfit too. Although, it is true to say that they were truly awful that season, and were aware of the two team relegation at the start. Even now the supporters have struggled to shake off this “everybody hates us” conspiracy theory. I wonder if it’ll be confirmed if lightening strikes three times come July and another expansion team gets the nod ahead of the Vikings.nnIn March’s edition of Rugby League World Steve O’Connor, Widnes’ new owner, is quoted as saying that “… I don’t know what it is but I have often heard this thing from people that everyone is against us.” He wasn’t just referring to Rugby League, as many people in the town feel that about many aspects of life there.nnHow about Keighley Cougars? They can claim to be as hard done by as Widnes as they have almost been forced out of existence. One of the games oldest clubs, Bramley, now known as Buffaloes, feel the RFL forced them out of the league and have been given little chance of returning to the National League ever since.nnAnother theory, well raised, is that Sheffield are hated so much they were forced to merge with Huddersfield. Another supporter I spoke to quoted a conversation he had with a Leeds supporter who has statistical evidence that they are forced to retreat 14m compared to other teams 10m.nnHow about drugs? Sorry that wasn’t an offer, but other people mention how Great Britain stars such as Kieron Cunningham have escaped long bans, yet lesser known players get two year bans?nnReferees, of course, are told which teams they want to win, mainly by Sky Sports, and fix decisions accordingly. I’ve got to admit, although it doesn’t seem that way when your team is on the receiving end of a bad decision, I personally believe that they are just bad, not bent, but I’m sure you could make a portfolio of evidence showing how Rugby League is fixed.nnOf course, Wigan always “get away” with everything, especially the Stuart Fielden saga. From managing to sign him, despite being over the salary cap, to having their points deduction the season after they were safe, this was bettered by the previous seasons rules applying meaning a reduction in the amount of points lost.nnNext, Castleford, rightly aggrieved after being relegated, threatened legal action. This was subsequently dropped. Why? Because the RFL had told them they’d be guaranteed a place in Super League when the licensing system is adopted of course.nnThe list of conspiracy theories goes on and on and on. But what truth lies behind any of them? And is it worth harking on about the past when we should be promoting the future? I, maybe naively, believe that Rugby League is as honest as any other sport. Where is the proof that any of the above rumours and conjectures, and more besides, are true?nnBut as Mel Gibson’s character said, “A good conspiracy is unprovable. I mean, if you can prove it, it means they screwed up somewhere along the line.”nnkevin.finney@lasttackle.com

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