Mailbox: Is Super League as inclusive as it thinks it is?

James Gordon

Mailbox gives you the chance to get your voice heard and start the debate with the rugby league audience. Want to be featured? Email the editor:

Dear Sir,

Judge and Jury in the ‘Court of Ultimate Inclusion’, our omnipotent (all powerful) omniscient (all knowing) leaders have spoken.

Their wise verdict was – ‘As a sport we have an impressive and enviable track record when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion and we will continue our work in those areas’.

Thus, our ‘minigarchs’ (somewhat down-market oligarchs) propounded their wisdom.

Their verdict, as summarised by the Daily Mail (at least they got us some column inches) was that: ‘Rugby League is so ferociously intent on inclusivity it will keep on including right up to the point when it meets exclusion.’

Indeed, Super League is so INCLUSIVE that it agrees with:

1. withdrawing central funding from League 1 clubs, thus committing some to extinction.

2. sending Super League fringe players on Dual Registration and excluding part-time players, who may desperately need the extra money to put food on the table for their families.

These are but two. Credit to them, however, we have much to praise in the work that has been done and is in progress.

The statement, made by Israel Folau was to most people, distasteful. Did the similar pronouncement, on the same subject, made by the Archbishop of Canterbury cause the same reaction?

The interpretation of one verse from the Bible, made by a young, sincere, fundamentalist Christian would probably have never been universally aired, were it not for social media.

Israel Folau (along with millions of other followers) will stand by his view. Some of those may be rugby league players. Israel Folau claims that he was preaching the love of Jesus. Is he, or any other Christian rugby players not entitled to feel led by God and express their faith in case it offends a sponsor?

With that issue on the table, did our leaders call upon two role-models of our sport to share their feelings on the matter? Both much respected players they might have injected some light into the heated discussion.

The essence of the Salford ‘Knee-Jerk-athon’ was aptly expressed by Neil Hudgell – ‘…..if a title sponsor withdraws, or external investment is not secured or quantifiable reputational damages caused to the BRAND…..’. Given ‘two-pennorth of controversy’, our leaders became paranoid control-freaks and resolve to take control of who plays and who does not play the game.

In his lawyer wisdom, perhaps ‘my learned friend’ could state the parameters that might cause ‘quantifiable reputational damages’ and which morally upright Vapers, Boozers and Bookies might walk away from the BRAND, their lilywhite social consciences pricked by such heresy and disregarding those choking to death; staggering around the pubs or drowning in a torrent of gambling debt. Were there any ‘Brand- deserters’ when Sonny Bill refused to wear the Bookies logo on his shirt?

Martin Samuels, of the Daily Mail, concludes his recent article on the whole sorry business: ‘to exclude any athlete for what he or she thinks is surely the most dangerous path of all.’ It has been stated that Folau has made a promise NOT to pass on his opinions. If he has been convicted of something that he has not yet said, only what he might think then, in true Orwell (1984) fashion, he is guilty of ‘thoughtcrime’ – i.e. ‘…..unspoken beliefs and doubts that contradict the tenets of – THE BRAND…..’.

So, if you want a career in Super League, watch your mouth – despite the fact that many of us think that, in the past and present, it has become a depository for the NRL’s ‘naughty boys’. Note that Israel Folau has not been accused of bringing the GAME into disrepute, his differences with RA have been settled and he has promised not to repeat those views, which many find offensive.

Thanks to Super League, Folau is now the victim – denied freedom of speech, freedom of thought. It will be interesting to see and hear the fans reaction when he does actually play.

As the Bible says: ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’ (Matthew 19:24).

Bryan Smith

Editor’s comment: Super League has tied itself in knots over this issue. It has been dragged on for far too long. A bad PR episode that they’ve extended themselves. It should have been buried a week ago. Instead, the Super League owners continue to drag it on, despite the fact they are powerless to do anything about it. It’s as if they’re begging for sponsors and broadcasters to pull out, just so they can say ‘see, we were right’. Now, back to rugby…

Mailbox gives you the chance to get your voice heard and start the debate with the rugby league audience. Want to be featured? Email the editor: