Mailbox: Unbe-Leigh-vable choice for Super League

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: james@loverugbyleague.com

Dear Editor,

This Monday, the most ambitious expansion club in the history of professional sport was officially replaced by a Championship-level team with an underwhelming 8-1-42 record over two previous Super League seasons. Leigh’s facilities are very good and they certainly have an established fan-base.

But they are also within 12 miles of four existing Super League clubs, including three of the top four clubs in the competition (Wire, Saints, Wigan). How are Leigh expected to grow the game given how hemmed-in they are? And, with all due respect, the traditional Wigan-Leigh derby will not be a huge draw if each club performs as expected.

Meanwhile, Toulouse Olympique boasts an even newer stadium and comparable fanbase, especially considering the number of away fans each team can expect. (Avg. home attendance in 2019: Leigh – 3,259; Toulouse Olympique – 2,488.)

More importantly, Toulouse is both a traditional heartland club AND a tremendous growth market. Toulouse is close enough to Perpignan to solidify the existing rivalry with Catalans, but far enough away that the club has a large catchment area for acquiring new fans. A second French club in the “European Super League” is so obvious a decision, only the people in charge could fail to appreciate it.

Leigh may have been the “safe” choice, but it was also the uninspired choice. I honestly hope they have a great season and cause a lot of upsets, but I don’t expect many people to be watching when they do win.

Best,
Uninspired in Illinois

Editor’s comment: The fact Sky Sports referred to the competition as the English Super League didn’t fill me with confidence. Perhaps if Toronto’s application to re-join was as thorough and of the same high quality as Leigh’s apparently was, then maybe this whole situation could have been avoided.

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: james@loverugbyleague.com

23 Comments

  1. As Featherstone fan I really don’t think we were ready for super league
    I would rather earn promotion and then prepare with more time
    My only concern about Leigh is if they are relegated would the club honour any contracts agreed my choice would have been York

  2. Expansion of RL through Super League membership in areas with no fan base is a policy which has cost the game a fortune, with no payback. Clubs with no fan base can never prosper, it’s clearly a failed policy. Much better to allocate SL member on playing merit, adding more quality to the offering. So this decision is clearly correct.

    Expansion needs to be achieved through development of the game at amateur, grass root level, thus creating the fan base for future new clubs in people playing the game. There’s huge scope for this outside the traditional heartlands in a fast game without scrums, especially as Rugby Union is highlighted for the danger of head injuries.

    • Come on Toulouse have killed Leigh the last couple seasons. They are a “heartland” and expansion team in one. As an Aussie super league / championship viewer Leigh are a bore, we need to grow our great game and Toulouse ticks all the boxes.

      • Yeh we will grow rugby-league in France….obviously where it all stared eh ? The French bring a hell of a lot of fans over just like the Toronto lot ….come off it ……

        • In what other full-time professional sport do clubs absolutely NEED traveling away fans to stay afloat? Why in the world can’t a Super League club pack its home stadium with its own fans? And how many new fans can Leigh hope to attract, being basically equidistant from 4(!) other Super League stadia? (To say nothing of the fact that Toulouse v. Catalans alone would add more broadcast rights value than Leigh’s whole season.) I just don’t see how Leigh is anything other than a contraction.

          -Disclaimer: I am an American who has come to grips with the fact that rugby league (in Europe or Australia) can never be run quite like American professional sports because there is just not enough population/money. In fact, there are individual NFL players who earn more than the entire salary cap for all of the Super League COMBINED–five NFL stars are on at least $34 million USD/year, compared to, if my math is correct, about $2.8 million USD Super League salary cap per club, which, times 12 is about $33.6 million USD.

  3. Toulouse was the obvious choice to many people but typical of RL/SL yet again getting it wrong. Leigh should have been behind York, Fev & London, but it was no surprise Leigh did get it they probably had a tip off they would do so considering all the players they have been signing.

  4. I have to agree that Leigh is a very uninspired choice. It’s not exciting for the general public, nor will it attract hordes of new enthusiastic supporters. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and admire what Leigh have done and have spent many a Sunday afternoon there, mostly watching my own team, the mighty Fax, getting walloped.
    My preference, for the teams themselves, the geographical expansion of the sport, and the publicity to be gained would have been either my now local team, York, or Toulouse. Both of whom have decent Championship support with the prospect of dramatically expanding it. But hey ho, as long as the greatest sport in the world thrives and prospers, I’ll be happy.

  5. I swear the Rugby League is run by people infiltrated from the RFU to stop development! Looking back to the 1990s there was tremendous vibrancy, growth, I’ll never forget watching with growing fear Australia move the ball wide against Great Britain at old Trafford, I think it was Ricky Stuart made the key run and pass, it was almost the pinnacle, we had the infinitely better product, Wigan went on to not just beat Bath but humiliate them, I worked in the City of London, after checking with a City bookmaker, “not a chance son, not Bath with a 100 point start, do one!”, I took my oh so confident Unionist colleagues to the cleaners, and then what, a slow long lingering death, pitiful growth, the rise of Union to glass bal proportions, and the League fight back with promoting Leigh, whoop-de-doo, pitiful response. I’ve all but given up on the sport, I tried Union, still puts me to sleep after a few minutes, we’ve still the better product, but you’d never know it.

    I’ve suggested this before, the entire British game should become part of the NRL, let them administer the sport, they fear nobody or nothing, they don’t cower, scrape, and doff their cap to the RFU! Which bright spark allowed them to use the term “Rugby World Cup”, we should have been utter ____s about that. Let’s not forget from 27th August to date they’ve waged a one sided war of oppression, aggression, oppression, and worse, and in return…nowt. Why don’t we commission a documentary to air that shows the bigotry, oppression, abuse, collaboration, etc, but we won’t. The occasional book will outline more stories of egregious abuse, the BBC will continue in every single bloody broadcast to come out with “for those of you new to Rugby League”, every bloody broadcast! Is it a condition in their contract? Endlessly with the flat hat, whippet on a string, and pint of mild. What about the great strides, first black international, coach, captain, the positives, instead almost virtual silence. If they put cricket back on normal TV I’d probably give up altogether, and I know I’m not alone, friends in the local amateur game are bemoaning it’s virtual collapse, pre Covid that is, post Covid God alone help them, the RFL won’t. Sorry, rant over. Merry Christmas everyone.

  6. As someone who lives in the south, has played RU all my life, yet supports and advocates RL everywhere i go, i cant believe this decision. Not only getting rid of Toronto (city of 3 million, sport mad, crowds of 10,000 most games), but overlooking Toulouse (personally think the best team in Championship and great opportunity for a catalan/toulouse derby at the nou camp??) and London (team prior to Toronto in SL and did amazingly well considering their budget) in order to spread the game, its disgusting. If anything, I would have even been happier if they had picked Featherstone as they were the finalists beaten by Tornto, therefore surely more right to take their place than Leigh? Decisions like this will alienate and already hard market to crack, and push fans like me away from the sport because it seems the SL/RFL want to stick to stereotype and have a sport on the m62, when the ambition and possibilities of the sport are far, far greater.

  7. On a separate note, turned off the British lions doc on BBC. Wayne Bennet and his staffs decision to have an England team in Lions colours was quite frankly a disgrace. The whole point of the Lions is the mix of all GB/Ireland nations players. And until there are more international fixtures for the likes of Ireland, Wales and Scotland their player development will continue to stall.The International RFL need to consider the creation of a 4 nations cup (England,Ireland, Scotland, Wales) to played ‘magic weekend style over the course of 3 weekends, (Murrayfield, Millenium stadium and Twickenham as venues) in order to boost the profile of the sport and develop the four nations and GB lions concept. All neutrals love a sporting event that involves their respective nation, make it happen and you will see results !!!!

  8. I have no idea why the above posters are so upset. Heartlands clubs Leigh or Featherstone would have probably gained promotion in 2021, or 2022 anyway if Toulouse would have been given the 12th place in SL. I imagine you will all be pleased in 11 months or so when we (Leigh) are back in the championship where we belong. 🙂

  9. For me Leigh are welcome to super league, they have a good stadium adn good hotels local. So I am looking forward to a weekend over there.

  10. Being a Southerner I’ve never heard of Leigh. It seems like a missed opportunity to me to expand the game into a well-known big city like York, London or Tolouse

  11. To the two that say Toulouse Catalan Darby wot a joke Leigh are in super league get a life Infact come and watch leigh Warrington Leigh Wigan Leigh St. Helens 3darbys Der leigh are in super league live with it 👏👍

    • Fun facts:
      Last time Leigh were in Super League, they only managed 6 wins.
      BUT half of those were derby wins, with home wins over Wire, Wigan, and Saints.
      BUT that season was the ONLY season in the summer era in which Wire, Wigan, and Saints all finished outside the top four.
      IN FACT the last time Wire, Wigan and Saints all finished outside the top four was in the 1981-82 season.
      AND who topped the table that season? Leigh!
      (Not sure what this all tells us, but my guess is that the local derbies will be lop-sided this coming summer.)

  12. To my mind, the whole point of picking a 12th team rather than running with 11 was to make it clear there’s no way back for Toronto. Super League can’t make that statement by accepting another expansion club.

  13. To my mind.the point of allowing a 12th team was to state clearly there’s no way back for Toronto. Super League wouldn’t have made that point if they’d accepted another expansion club like Toulouse.

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