Page XIII editorial, first published 6th April 2012 in Rugby League World, Issue 373 (May 2012)
There were red faces when the RFL trailed a simultaneous press launch at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff and Old Trafford, Manchester to reveal the fixtures and venues for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, only to change the details at the last minute. Twice.
To shift the launch event from Old Trafford (which we are still presuming will host the final) to Leigh Sports Village was bad enough, but to wait until the day before to let anyone know is unforgiveable. It was then cancelled altogether at a couple of hours notice, leaving Cardiff to go it alone.
And we wonder why our World Cup suffers so badly for the credibility it deserves. Why do we always get it so wrong?
Ok, we know most of the regular RL media will turn up to press events regardless, but how must it look to the national media, who we desperately need to get onside for the World Cup?
I’m not convinced that the drip, drip, drip policy of releasing small nuggets of information over a long period is having the desired effect. It looks haphazard, confusing and unfocused. The danger is that people will simply lose interest once the ‘big bang’ announcement has been revealed to be yet another damp squib.
I care deeply about the Rugby League World Cup. It ought to be our sport’s greatest jewel. There is much to applaud about what we already know, but for it to achieve genuine lasting success, it needs to grab the imagination of those who are not already Rugby League anoraks.
Wales effectively being relegated to playing a curtain-raiser at their own home stadium in a double header where England will have top billing is a massive risk. The opener will set the mood for the whole tournament. Just as England’s triumph at Wembley lit up the 1995 event, their failure on ‘alien’ territory at Twickenham only added to the mood of gloom that surrounded the World Cup in 2000. Plus, we are forsaking the ready-made crowd of Antipodean expats which London can offer to any headline Rugby League game involving Australia or New Zealand.
Wembley may yet host the semi-finals as another double header, which in itself is not a bad idea within the constraints of what has already been confirmed, but I would have far preferred to see the World Cup starting and ending there instead.
I think it would have generated a much bigger bang and made a bold statement about where Rugby League sees itself in the international sporting calendar of the nation.
It’s hard to know what to say about the situation the Bradford Bulls find themselves in. As a season ticket holder and supporter of the club for over thirty years, my perspective is not neutral. During their years of success in Super League, the attitude of some of those involved in running the club was often quite dismissive towards the wider game; the kind of arrogance that eventually tarnished the brand. Now we can see much of that success was built on sand, and it is both astonishing and humbling to see that despite that, the wider game was prepared to rally round in an attempt to save the club from itself. Time will tell how this situation plays out. Obviously, I hope the outcome is positive, but serious questions remain to be answered by both the club’s management and those who were prepared to grant them a three year Super League licence with such a financial car crash waiting to happen. If anything at all is learned from this, let it be that all clubs should be required, even forced if necessary, to live within their means and that when you’re at the top, remember to show humility to those below, because you never know when you might need their assistance on the way down.
IN THE PINK
I’m bemused by the hostile reaction in some quarters to the decision by Leeds Rhinos players to dye their hair to show support for Sport Relief in their game against St Helens at Langtree Park, on a weekend in which every Super League team also wore special Sport Relief socks. I think we should be celebrating that our sport supported such a wonderful cause so wholeheartedly, not bemoaning it or using it as the lamest of reasons to explain the Rhinos defeat. With several of their injured stars back, Saints were absolutely outstanding, delivering the kind of performance that felt almost inevitable after a few stuttering weeks. Leeds were perhaps unlucky to be caught on the receiving end of it, that’s all. The colour of their hair is a red herring.
John Drake, Editor