Non-Super League clubs working to earn their central funding

James Gordon

Clubs outside of Super League are having to prove their worth to receive the maximum central funding available to them, ahead of the broadcast deal d-day in 2021.

There is uncertainty over the value of any broadcast deal beyond the current deal with Sky Sports, and Super League clubs appear keen to lessen the amount of the pie that is shared out to Championship and League 1 clubs.

With Super League now operating separately to the RFL, clubs outside the top flight will no longer be able to rest on their laurels and receive their central funding – unless they can prove they are contributing to the game.

The RFL’s “Return on Investment” plan requires clubs to tick specific boxes in order to qualify for maximum central funding.

One of those boxes related to the dedicated rugby league app, OuRLeague, with clubs required to drive free membership sign-ups to it.

Oldham chairman, Chris Hamilton, said: “This is an important change to how clubs receive funding and I am determined to ensure we do everything we can to maximise our opportunities and our income under the new rules.

“The journey we have embarked upon won’t give us a quick or easy fix; it’s more a strategic plan; and having all our fans on board is crucial to its success.”
Out of the 26 clubs under review, the Roughyeds were placed 11th last September.
But in terms of average crowds, they were played 20th with an average of 567, above only Hemel, Coventry, the two Welsh clubs, Toronto (who are not required to submit figures) and London Skolars.
In a recent statement, Swinton chairman Andy Mazey said: “The landscape of rugby league outside of Super League is changing and indeed has already changed significantly in the last six months.”The league restructure hurt us financially and trying to operate in this league with the lowest amount of funding of all 14 clubs as well as carrying loans and historic debt from former people’s mistakes is not easy.

“The now effective RFL ROI (return on investment) model which now measures all clubs business and financial performance and distributes what is already reduced central funding by way of rank and size has also hurt us and Swinton actually ranks below the top clubs in League One so we are addressing the fundamental areas of the ROI and making improvements but sadly history and heritage doesn’t get us anything and old school media and posting leaflet drops right now are not high on the list of priorities and must do’s.

“The reality is though if we where to run this club off what comes through the gate and the income alone it doesn’t wash its own face and it would struggle to even be here and most certainly would be operating on a semi amateur League One basis by now.”

There appears to be a reluctance to allow, and more to the point fund, any more clubs join the league system, unless they can add to the player pool, introduce commercial revenue, increase visibility and profile and bring a large spectator base.
Manchester Rangers’ recent bid to join League 1 was rejected after they were asked for a £500,000 bond.
There were also concerns over the fact that there were already three other non-Super League Greater Manchester teams – Oldham, Rochdale and Swinton – and they had been encouraged to discuss possible merger or takeover options with the trio.
Until the broadcast deal picture becomes clearer, then clubs face an uncertain future.