Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams
The inclusion of Les Catalans Dragons in Super League is a huge boost for French rugby league and rugby league in general. It means that, eventually, French RL can regain its former position as a major force in world rugby.
The international dimension that has been brought to the France through the Catalans is invaluable to promoting the game across the channel. Bigger games will bring a lot more media coverage and more attention will be focused on the Catalans. This, in turn, will have the effect of bringing more attention to the French Championship.
More attention focused on the game will lead to an increase in interest – more spectators and more potential players. More spectators will lead to bigger crowds at French league games and more money for the clubs. They will be able to make improvements and put money into developing the game in their area.
An increased number of players means that more talent will be channelled into rugby league and away from rugby union. This will have the knock-on effect of improving the quality of the French national side. They will be able to compete with the British, Australians and New Zealanders and we could see the beginning of a regular ‘Four Nations' tournament.
The improvements in the national game will lead to similar benefits for the game here in Britain. We've already seen the benefits that international success brought to cricket and rugby union. Rugby league is perceived as a game where internationals are unimportant and even meaningless – that perception needs to be shattered.
Competitive internationals with the French will lead to their being more interest shown in our game, with a competitive World Cup going one better. There will be more rugby league fans and potential players in new areas of the country – rugby league will grow and grow.
Okay, realistically this won't be happening any time soon. We're looking at twenty years at least before that kind of dramatic progress is made. It's a slow, steady process – and all the better for it. But including the Catalans in Super League is the catalyst that could make it happen.
And no-body's saying that they have to stay there. Eventually the French Championship will have grown enough to support Super League quality teams. The French sides will enter at the fourth round of the Challenge Cup, which could become some kind of European Championship. The French champions could even be included in an expanded World Club Championship.
Let's not forget the disgusting way in which rugby union have tried to destroy French rugby league – even succeeding in having the game banned, and subsequently banning the rugby league from calling their game ‘rugby'. Isn't it right that we should counter those efforts by helping the French to succeed?
All in all, including Les Catalans Dragons in Super League will bring benefits to our game, and it is the right thing to do.
Keep Your Eye On Rugby League