The Wigan Rugby League Club today announced that they were putting forward a proposal, at the next meeting of Super League clubs, to enable the game to return to 22 Super League fixtures in 2008 based upon a simple home and away basis.
Explaining the decision, Wigan RL Chairman, Maurice Lindsay today said:
"There are many reasons why we are putting forward this proposal and the most important one is that we need to reduce the strain we are putting upon our players. With the salary cap down to £1.6m, nearly every Super League Club are forced to work with a smaller squad. With a long fixture list this inevitably means that when sides get injuries they are forced to play inexperienced youngsters who are not quite ready for the intensity of Super League. This is not good for the long term development of those players. Ten years ago young players were drafted into existing strong sides and were able to play alongside good professionals which made the youngsters better players. There are many examples such as Phil Clarke, Denis Betts and Jason Robinson in the Wigan side and many others at different clubs. That is not the case today".
Lindsay continued "It is also not fair on the supporters who have complained this year about the fact that their team are playing another team four times. To play a side four times will eventually reduce the intensity of the fixture and therefore, the fans interest. The Wigan versus St Helens and the Leeds versus Bradford fixtures are classic examples and no doubt, Hull versus Hull KR will be the same this year. Traditionally, those fixtures produce bumper attendances but if you play each other too many times it could have a negative effect".
Lindsay added "More than anything we need to protect the players, particularly if we want them to perform at the highest level when they play International fixtures. We should also bear in mind that there is a major World Cup competition taking place at the end of 2008. It is asking too much for instance, to play two games over Easter. The modern game is played at collision speed and injuries are inevitable. Rest is important to our athletes".
Lindsay concluded "The clubs can of course decide themselves how many fixtures they want. It may be that they don't want to support Wigan's thinking for financial reasons. I can understand that but there is another price to pay which is player burn out and International failure. We need to strike a balance. We are also conscious of the possibility of the league expanding to more clubs in the future but we should consider matters as they stand now and plan at least for 2008".
Wigan Head Coach Brian Noble said,
"I am delighted that the Wigan Club have taken this view. It has long been the view of many coaches in the game that we are overstretching our playing resources, particularly with the stringent Salary Cap rules in place. It would be interesting to see what the views of other clubs are".