I'm afraid I'm one of those 'seen it all before' fans when the subject of Perpignan, Les Catalans, the Dragons, or whatever you wish to call them are concerned. Jumping to the Geographical limits is not a sustainable concept, as London has proved (a club which appears to have courted various large backers ever since its conception to keep afloat). My original beef was that Rugby League needs to expand slowly, filtering through the midlands and gradually gaining a large following as it penetrates areas of interest such as the communities of Cardiff, Wales, and London. We certainly don't owe French Rugby League anything, so why should we sacrifice the potential of a solid Rugby League community gaining the chance of top-flight Rugby, at the expense of a team, baring in mind they're geographically so far away that they have no conception of what British Rugby is all about, never mind the history behind such teams as Dewsbury, Widnes, Leigh and Castleford. It's not xenophobia, Gateshead and Paris have proved conclusively that it doesn't work to jump-in feet-first, and although they shocked us, last place in the Super League is no surprise ' but we're sure to see a battling second-to-last next season, which the bosses of Rugby League will congratulate themselves about. Still, what's the point?
Recent news reports state that 35,000 people travelled to experience the novelty factor of Les Catalans this season. Out of 14 home rounds, that's a whopping 2,500 per game. The team averaged less than 6,500 over the season, and if that figure is correct then travelling fans are making up the attendances by just under 40%. There's only so much duty free people want, and when you consider the potential tax increases in fuel, are people going to continue flying? Is this a sustainable business? TV money is one thing, and I appreciate why the Rugby League bends so freely around this golden wand, but how long will it continue to operate along lines of madness? Or am I simply being blind and foolish? Perhaps there are things that have escaped me?
I'm all for forging forwards with Rugby League and developing it past its comfortable heartlands. Expanding the game across the world is a great idea, but how does impairing our own leagues help us in the struggle to make a marked improvement against the Aussies? No one has spoon-fed the British game, our clubs have shaped themselves and carved out strong, expansive business models; Leeds RLFC are a prime example of this, operating a number of businesses outside of the traditional comfort zones and churning out a sustainable level of talent in a conveyor-belt manner.
What I'm saying is I don't believe the hype, and what's more I don't care to be brainwashed by it. We know the outcome of the story without reading the book ' and true fans of League can see our own clubs suffering, the Leagues becoming shrunk through lack of domestic competition (partly due to the constant threat of ridding us of promotion / relegation, and maybe through the meddling that occurs season after season). Why don't we forget about inviting other communities outside of the real fan-base into our league and concentrate on venturing into closer, expansive areas that are affluent and in need of some live top-class sport? In a country of 55 million people there must be places like this. I'm fed-up of people treating our game like a non-entity ' take for instance Jason Robinson, and to a lesser extent John Bentley. It was almost as if Mr.Robinson had fallen from the sky, his dominance in League completely forgotten ' whereas Bentley couldn't even get a game in League and went on to star in a Union tour. Is our game solid? We know it is. Our athletes are supreme ' so why don't we get national press newspaper inches? ' perhaps it's because we waste our time on endeavours like Les Catalans. Abolishing those ideas is not the answer to all our woes, but it would be a start!