The mood among observers has always been that the Super League chairmen would be desperate to keep the fixture list at its current length, purely for financial reasons. That’s not unreasonable when you consider that the loss of three home games could spell the end of clubs that suffer low attendances.
Lindsay’s argument is a sound one. Longer fixtures mean fatigued players: therefore there will be more injuries and players will not be at their peak for the international season. He also points out this year’s ridiculous fixture list, where a team may play another four times, but another only twice.
But Gary Hetherington of Leeds and Eamon McManus of St Helens were quick to point out the financial implications of such a move. The prevailing attitude is that some club’s may face bankruptcy if the fixture list is cut. On reflection that is a major consideration.
So the choice is clear: either we lose top-flight clubs due to financial difficulties, or continue to see Great Britain rate a poor third in international rugby league. Unless, of course, a compromise can be found.
It has been argued that a cull in fixtures would not necessarily result in loss of revenue. Fewer fixtures would mean that top-level rugby league was in shorter supply, and therefore in greater demand (much like the NFL, which only plays sixteen regular-season games). However, this attitude really underestimates the difficulties clubs face in getting people through the turnstiles.
The opposite argument is that we don’t need a cull of fixtures at all. The legendary Great Britain teams of the past played more games than top players do today, and went on lengthy tours across Australia and New Zealand. Yet they were still able to bring home the Ashes. However, reminding current players how well their predecessors could do may not be a route to success.
Perhaps a solution would be to reduce the league season by six fixtures, but to hold three mid-season internationals. This would cut a player’s season by three games and give the Great Britain team some much-needed game time. It need not hit clubs financially, as the gate receipts could be split evenly between the twelve Super League clubs.
Maybe this idea would not work. There are plenty of reasons in fact why it couldn’t work. But if people keep on suggesting things we’ll get there in the end.
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