The posturing and ceremony surrounding the 2021 World Cup and the supposed legacy it aims to create feels somewhat awkward given the current landscape of the game from grassroots right through to the top level.
The potential host cities have of course got to get on with things, as have those planning for the tournament. The 2013 edition was fantastic, though whether the sport has been able to build on that remains up for debate.
On the one hand, we’ve got a test match being played in Denver and the Toronto Wolfpack establishing themselves as a serious sports franchise and possible Super League club; but on the other we have clubs like Nottingham Outlaws struggling to find opponents.
The Outlaws are a good example of a genuine expansion club that has a solid foundation, having this year secured their own home at Lenton Lane following the demise of a local non league football club.
Yet having seen local rivals go out of business, they were forced to turn to the Yorkshire League, where even now they are struggling for games – they’ve gone one month without a game and two months without a home game due to opponents cancelling or not being able to raise a team.
There are concerns about officiating at the top level, and while abuse and criticism is often widely misplaced and sometimes a consequence of the objectivity of the laws, one cannot ignore the realities of logistics as below.
A young RL referee (15) just told me that he recently had to do a game 75 miles away. It was a good experience for him but to be paid £14 without expenses such as fuel, is a joke.
It actually cost him money to officiate. Not exactly enticing youngsters to referee is it @TheRFL?
— John Stankevitch (@johnstankevitch) July 10, 2018
It’s fair to say that the appointment of Ralph Rimmer as the new permanent chief executive of the RFL was met somewhat underwhelmingly by fans over the course of the week.
That’s perhaps unfair to Rimmer himself, though whether the solution can be part of the problem remains to be seen.
For what it’s worth, when Rimmer addressed members of the media upon his appointment as interim boss, I was pleasantly surprised by his stance on a few areas and though it was slightly unprepared, generally it was a relatively transparent and honest session.
That opinion wasn’t shared by many others, especially as it generated a number of headlines – mainly in relation to Toronto Wolfpack’s possible exclusion from Super League, though at least you can’t accuse Rimmer of hiding away from any questions.
The issue Rimmer, and indeed anyone has, is that people are expecting a revolution. People want to see changes. People want to see things get better.
The problem is now that people are cynical – we’ve seen it all before, we’ve seen it go wrong. We don’t give changes time to bed in, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean we should sit on things that aren’t working. The aforementioned Toronto are a good example – nobody knows whether it’s going to work long term or not, but does that mean we shouldn’t try?
In my opinion, it’s bonkers – but until someone at the top gets a vice like grip on what’s happening, what the strategy is for the game as a whole, and makes it work – without pandering to the moaning clubs or getting weak at the knees to any mega rich potential club owners – then we’ll keep stumbling through disaster after disaster.
Rugby league fans are a unique breed. Yes, we are slammed for moaning and criticising at any given opportunity.
But it’s only because we care for the game.
It is painful to see people walk away from the game for a variety of reasons, when rugby league needs all the people it can get to even just stay at the level it’s at now, let alone grow.
What use is adding a few hundred new fans in one place if thousands are being lost elsewhere?
Please, Ralph or anyone, find the formula that works for both.