The morning after another decision that split rugby league

Another seismic day in rugby league history that raises more questions than answers.

First of all, credit to Leigh for passing the application process and securing a place in Super League. Perhaps if Toronto’s bid to re-join was as thorough and high quality, then all of this could be avoided.

Sadly, Leigh – as a place, a club and a group of fans – are subjected to abuse for nothing more than because of where they are from. It’s hardly their fault that there are three strong Super League clubs around them, and yet here they are, still able to be a top Championship club that has now been given a third chance at establishing themselves in the top flight.

The “my dad is bigger than your dad” culture that was created during the Nigel Wood era has created a toxic environment in rugby league that it threatens never to recover from.

Super League isn’t the be all and end all. Just because an area isn’t in that competition, doesn’t mean rugby league isn’t expanding. It needs players in these areas, first and foremost.

Rugby league, unfortunately, is a minority sport yet people that should no better continue to peddle the myth that simply sticking teams in well-populated areas will suddenly prick the interests of blue chip companies and every broadcaster in the land. There are other sports that prove that this simply isn’t the case.

READ: Mailbox: Unbe-Leigh-vable choice for Super League

London as a place can be as big as you like, but if they’re only attracting 2,000 fans each week, it’s not going to attract sponsors; and they have had 20 seasons in Super League that has ultimately proved this.

It’s this constant pressure that the game puts itself under regarding expansion areas commanding big money deals. It’s not going to happen overnight.

The biggest success of London right now is the players that they are producing – something which can happen whatever league they are in and as they proved in 2019, they can make it on their own without a leg up that places undue expectations on them.

Trying to find a solution to their nomadic existence, surely the primary reason they haven’t been able to grow their fanbase significantly, is the next priority.

York’s marketing efforts over the past couple of years have turned them in to the hipsters choice, and a new stadium will help them kick forward further. What they don’t need is to be fast tracked in to Super League with a weight of expectation on their shoulders, when clearly they are progressing quite nicely without it. One of the learnings from the failed Super League expansion efforts of the past must surely be running before you can walk. Let’s not forget too, that York has had a rugby league team since 1901.

They will be better for the experience of applying, and for the attention that it has brought them.

It was a relief that Bradford didn’t get the nod, despite their undoubted fanbase and city location, as they need to be able to re-build in a sustainable manner; while Featherstone deserve sympathy, rather than being lambasted for their location, which again they can do nothing about. They were a strong Championship team when there was no promotion, worked towards putting themselves in a strong position to earn a licence, and then licensing was scrapped.

READ: How Leigh won their place in Super League

A big question mark must be raised over the concept of a “European” Super League, after the clear opportunity to elevate Toulouse to join Catalans was passed upon.

After 15 years of the Dragons in the competition, a French TV deal and sponsorship benefits are still lacking and while putting Toulouse may have changed that, it’s all just hypothetical.

Even in spite of COVID, this was a golden opportunity to get a second French team in the competition. The decision not to must raise questions over the purpose of Catalans’ presence, especially as French rugby league is desperate to kick forward. They may well be better off taking things in to their own hands and focusing on developing their elite competition, rather than having their shots called by the north of England.

We wait patiently for some leadership and transparency over the direction of rugby league; because survival mode cannot be a permanent solution.

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17 Comments

  1. In the article and London, you seem to forget the days at The Stoop, with crowds of 7,000 & 9,000, they must produce more players spread around Super League than any club, but your cynical comment, they will do that whatever league they are in! Well if the Club should collapse, those players in The South will go to UNION! London has no debts, and have been backed by Mr David Hughes for many years. IF London should ever come to an end, RL will become a small Northern game again, mainly known along the M62 corridor. Major sponsors will see that as limited, broadcasters would expect to pay less for coverage, and the media who do cover the game like The Sun & Mirror may decide we are small time! Was it right to let 6 wise men to decide who should be promoted, why was it not a play off between the 6 clubs which would have been much fairer! Like the presentation on Sky Sport of the announcement which was Amateur that sums up how game currently!

    • The biggest average crowd that they managed in a season at The Stoop was 4,642 (2006 – including 8k v St Helens in first game and 12k v Huddersfield in presumably a double header with rugby union), and it was down to 2,380 in their last season there. Broadcasters and sponsors etc still see the game as a northern sport, in spite of London’s presence.

      • The RL have totally missed a trick here. 3 of the 6 teams should have been promoted. Lef as is for 2 or 3 seasons to let them strengthen properly. 26 games no stupid loop games. Play each team H&A job done.

        • Behave. That’s too obvious to us plebs. Remember this is Rugby League you’re talking about. Their motto is “If it ain’t broke we’ll still fix it “

        • Unfortunately, the problem with that appears to be that the current Super League clubs don’t want to share their slice of the pie.

  2. Leigh what a crap decision thought you wanteddd to spread the game around. The country , you’ve just shat on London and featherstone, remind of Leigh league position when it was a Toronto v Featherstone play off final . Because I don’t recall them winning anything . FARCE

  3. I recall London not even getting 1000 fans some games.
    The idea that Catalans are a French team seemed strange to me. Have you ever noticed the names of the players they put in their 17. Everybody stupidly raves about what a great club catalans are but if you watch them play rugby league it’s not so nice.

    • Catalans have a a great set up , we are all Europeans and the world is getting smaller doesn’t matter where a player comes from , if they can pull 7-10000 fans it doesn’t matter where the players come from , the french fans love it !! .

      • It is a shame that Catalans don’t put more faith in their homegrown players though. There are players in France who deserve a shot at full-time. With all due respect to some of the English players they have signed, surely they can find French wingers / props / back-rowers?

    • Rich history of RL in the South of France ,great club and if we apply your definition of what is the names on the roster then most teams in the NRL aren’t Australian given the numbers of player from a Pacific Island heritage

  4. Leigh in super league what a fix , you want. To grow and develop the sport and you do this what a joke . I don’t remember Leigh winning the championship last year . Should of. Between London and featherstone they earned the right to go into super league. Hope Leigh do a better job than the last time they tried the top division

  5. This is one of the best articles to have broken down the whole process. I’m a Broncos fan of 25 years and was naturally gutted we didn’t get the nod but I can certainly see why. The squad we have now is vastly different to the team that got relegated and unless Hughesy bought in a heap of experience, it pains me to say we would have struggled massively to compete. Brings back nightmares of the time we barely won a game all year. In addition to that our crowds obviously aren’t good enough, and I’m sure the gates we post are inflated as well!
    I think the last year of middle 8s, where ourselves, Toronto, Toulouse etc were beating SL teams was the perfect time to expand SL to 14. That was the closest the gap between the weaker SL teams and strongest Championship teams had been in a long, long time. @Steve Power has hit the nail on the head. Instead we stuck with what we got and it felt we were all worse off for it. We end up getting relegated by points difference and lose the majority of our players, sending 4 years of structured progress/ development spiralling.

    I like the idea @jaybs has stated with having a playoff for the last spot, at least there wouldn’t have been such a strong public objection to the events that have transpired. Leigh finished 4th last year in Championship, do they now have a squad ready to compete?

  6. Yes Rugby League has always been seen as The Northaners game and I go back to the early 70s when I was a regular player of Union and also when I was nearby training with the Leeds league lads In those days you were either Union or League as I was in the military marines actually I could do both The fairest way to have gone was a playoff with the 6 teams chosen time alone will tell sorry for the preamble but I really love my rugby 🏉 much better than the posers who play chearball as I prefer to call it Sadly that is where the money is just look at teams in leagues 8 and 9 below the premier League

  7. This decision was purely based on taking the safest option (understandable after Toronto)

    I’d like to see Superleague expand to 14-15 teams in a few years time, and I really hope Newcastle can grow as that would be an amazing new crowd to tap into

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