‘Hurt’ Mike Eccles makes plea to IMG to decide London Broncos strategy

Aaron Bower
Mike Eccles London Broncos Alamy

London Broncos head coach Mike Eccles

London Broncos coach Mike Eccles has made an impassioned plea to IMG and rugby league’s authorities to decide what the strategy is surrounding the sport in the capital – after revealing the club are ‘hurt’ and ‘bemused’ by the way the club have been treated through the gradings process.

London produced one of the great stories in rugby league last year when they achieved promotion against all the odds, with a squad comprised largely of players born and produced in the south of England. However, within weeks of that triumph, they were effectively told they would be removed from Super League no matter what within a year.

The Broncos were ranked 24th out of 36 clubs in IMG’s provisional gradings, and while their position should go up this year, it will still be nowhere near enough to retain their place in Super League.

And after their first win of the season on Sunday against Hull FC, Eccles lifted the lid on his frustrations with the process – calling on those in charge to work out exactly what the game wants from the Broncos.

“To do it straight after you get promoted and say, you agreed to the terms.. well we didn’t, did we?” Eccles said.

“We didn’t know this was exactly how it was going to unfold. The biggest gripe we always had is that the club was very classy in the way we approached the news because we needed time to digest it and understand it.

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“When you’re trying to build a team for Super League and you come out with negative press, that makes it even harder to recruit. We had to take our time, take stock and not moan. We’ve always been very hurt by it and bemused by it.

“If the game want London in the competition, the game needs to decide the strategy around that. We don’t meet the criteria, they’ve put the criteria in place over three years, and it’s the worst three years the club has had.”

Eccles also insisted that London provide plenty to the sport despite their criticism.

He said: “It puts us on a par with clubs who’ve never been in the top flight. Who’ve never been in Super League and have owners who aren’t investing what our owner is investing. We don’t fit the mould for the gradings, it’s as simple as that.

“Let’s get it right. One of the things that’s been thrown at London Broncos for a long time is, do they produce their own players, what’s the makeup of the team.. we got promoted last year without a single northern player in the team.

“That wasn’t by design, we didn’t do that on purpose. We did it the right way, 70% homegrown players and a sprinkling of overseas players. Then you get promoted and you have a plan to build, and that gets taken away before you even go on your holidays.

“That’s tough, and there’s nobody in any sport ever has ever experienced that. The emotions you’re feeling and the strategy we’re having to put together, that’s brand new for everybody.

“Nobody knows what we’re going through. It’s a great opportunity for the game, that today is what London should bring. We’re playing in a fantastic stadium getting results against established Super League clubs and it’s difficult to accept that in October you’re facing relegation already.”

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