Expansionist projects need their grassroots

It was a bit strange to hear a fan recently describe Millennium Magic as “a vital part of the expansionist programme”. The event has certainly been talked of as expansionist by the RFL, Sky Sports and Kevin Ellis, among others, but I never realised anyone took that seriously. If I was asked what is a vital part of the expansionist programme I should be more inclined to cite the RL Conference or perhaps Student RL.nnIn what sense Millennium Magic was expansionist I don’t understand. The only thing I can think of is that it was in Wales. But the Challenge Cup final has been held in London since 1929, as well Cardiff and Edinburgh in recent years and I don’t hear anyone talking about that event as expansionist. I can’t see how an event which involves 12 already-established teams and their supporters is expansionist.nnAll this is part of a wider trend among expansionists that supports big projects and suffers an apparently incurable impatience when it comes to spreading our game. Expansion into Wales is the current hobbyhorse of such people, with the assertion that everything that has been built up in the principality will have failed if the Celtic Crusaders aren’t thrust into the engage Super League at the earliest opportunity.nnGrassroots expansion has been going on all the time in south Wales over the last ten years thanks in part to the RL Conference and the establishment of the Welsh Premier League. More and more people are playing rugby league in Wales and the game is actually putting down foundations, “grass roots” if you will. The fact that all of this has been made dependent on Celtic Crusaders looks a very risky strategy to me.nnBecause the thing often overlooked is that a club in Super League will not survive without those grassroots beneath it; either that or a lot of support from the RFL. France is the perfect example: Paris Saint Germain were a failure because they had no roots, whereas Catalans Dragons are a success because they were built on roots in the rugby league areas of southern France.nnYou could argue that south Wales does have those grassroots; in fact I just said so myself. But are they strong enough to maintain a Super League club? The answer is no: the Crusaders clearly aren’t built on those grassroots because of their heavy reliance on overseas players. The grassroots are there but they haven’t grown the Crusaders, the Crusaders have been placed on top of them.nnFar from Celtic missing out on a Super League license killing of those grassroots I think it would help them. Give the amateur scene in Wales time to grow, give the Crusaders Colts time to establish themselves, and ensure the club rests on solid foundations. If Celtic go up in 2009, however, the club may go out of business within a matter of years. Now that would kill off grassroots rugby league in south Wales.nnKeep Your Eye on Rugby Leaguenntony.williams@lasttackle.com

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