Licences: Richard Lewis – are you sure?

So they have finally been released. The furore, arguments, squabbling and inter-club forum wars have finally been ended by the RFL issuing licences to fourteen lucky clubs.nnBut just how lucky were those clubs? Well, for the current twelve Super League clubs it was as expected, despite several press outlets putting pressure on the RFL to exclude one of Wakefield or Castleford.nnI have to ask Richard Lewis however, is that is he sure Celtic Crusaders can firstly make the grade, and secondly, can they avoid problems like the Paris Saint Germain exercise?nnIt will be interesting to see too how far the Crusaders have progressed, and if they will be kicked out again if they still don’t make the grade, or whether they will be kept in Super League to see if they can continue to make the steady progression as Harlequins have done. It will also be similar interesting to see if Wakefield and Castleford can deliver on their promises set out in their respective licence bids.nnThose clubs may be fortunate, but there’s no doubting that both clubs have at least something to offer to Super League. For the other ten Super League sides, their position was never in question.nnBut it was the seven outsiders who caused the most discussion; Widnes, Salford and Celtic Crusaders were leading the race, with Toulouse and Leigh behind in the running.nnAnd with amazement it was Salford and Celtic Crusaders who were granted passage into Super League for 2009 to 2011.nnAny reasonably educated person would be confused as to why Widnes were excluded. The simple conclusion is that three into two doesn’t go.nnI’m reliably informed that Widnes invested ₤50,000 into their quest for the Holy Grail that is Super League. That, in terms of rugby league monetary values, is a considerable amount of money, especially for a National League One side. In hindsight, the RFL could have saved them the bother if what it seems like has happened, by excluding them on the basis of Widnes’ earlier financial problems.nnBut why didn’t Widnes get in ahead of Celtic Crusaders or Salford?nnThe game has to be expanded, purely because it will help encourage bigger sponsors, more local businesses getting involved, and general publicity across the board.nnBut is that a good enough reason to exclude one of the most famous traditional heartland clubs, who offer far far more at this moment in time?nnWidnes have the stadium. The Stobart Halton Stadium is a fantastic credit to the game. You look at the rundown dilapidated grounds of Wakefield, Castleford, Hull KR, St Helens and Bradford and think ‘hang on, how are these sides in Super League but not Widnes?’ To add to that, we know have two more grounds that are sub-standard to watching quality rugby league in Bridgend and The Willows.nnAnd before people email me ridiculing, I know it’s because of success of most of the named clubs that is solely the reason they are in the elite.nnWidnes’ financial problems also meant that their current youth system products were enticed elsewhere, while the problems were sorted.nnThey also have the attendances and solid fanbase to compete towards the 10,000 marker. Certainly in the current situation where rugby league is developing and more fans are watching.nnThere just seems to be an underlying problem here. It will be interesting to see how the Welsh people take to Super League. I’d like to think they could follow in the way of Catalans Dragons, but you’ve got to think that the French outfit had most of the infrastructure in place. Celtics don’t. It’s going to be an hard and rocky road, but I’m sure the Welsh fans won’t mind one bit.nnAfter all, they are playing the likes of St Helens, Leeds and Wigan.nnON A SIDE note I have noticed a lot of people in the run up to the licences using stadia as the main way of pinpointing who should be included.nnI can see why, but surely contribution to the competition in terms of performance and home-produced players is of more substantial value?nnLook at St Helens. They are one of the best sides in the competition, consistently churning out players for the greater good of the game. They are moderately successful as well. While the B licence status they’ve achieved doesn’t recognise this, I still see them and Leeds as the benchmark of rugby league.nnAnd it’s also important to take into consideration why those clubs are still playing in those grounds. They’re old, but their historical and they’re good for creating an atmosphere. Some people don’t like change, preferring nostalgia and routines as the way of life.nnSome clubs have placed an higher importance on success than the surroundings they play in. This situation is applicable to Wakefield and Castleford who’ve struggled to reach the maximum salary cap for the better part of the last decade.nnThe removal of relegation and promotion ensures these clubs can now produce players, resist the urge to go for broke in trying to stay up, and spend money in other areas such as development of their respective grounds or placing it towards plans for their new grounds.nnAt the end of the day, we’re saying goodbye to yesterday, but hello to a brighter, more efficient, stable and quality future for the 14 successful clubs.nnI just hope those clubs that didn’t get in, continue to stand by their club. I know their will be some disgruntled and disappointed fans, but at the end of the day your club doesn’t deserve to be punished. Please continue to support them. It’s the loyal fans like you who make this game what it is.

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