Page XIII editorial, first published 4th May 2012 in Rugby League World, Issue 374 (June 2012)
I’m not a fan of Super League. I’m not a fan of the Championship or Championship One either for that matter. I’m not even a fan of the amateur game. I’m a Rugby League fan. I love it all, wherever and by whoever it is played, at whatever level and for whatever reason.
I wish more people felt the same, but it is a legacy of the Super League era and the sudden influx of television riches that these artificial boundaries have taken root. The impression, justified or not, is that the available cash isn’t shared out fairly and that some clubs benefit at the expense of others.
The introduction of licensing and the abandonment of straightforward promotion and relegation has reinforced that view. Perhaps mirroring society as a whole, the widely held perception is that rich clubs are allowed to get richer while the poor are left to fend for themselves.
The illusion of riches may have been shattered by the sudden financial collapse of one of the clubs at the top table, but that only illuminates the reality that none of our clubs are exactly rolling in it.
The licensing system creates a false sense of security, with many people assuming that any club which receives a licence must be financially sound. We know now that isn’t the case.
There has been much debate since Featherstone Rovers’ Challenge Cup giant killing exploits regarding the number of clubs that ought to be in Super League, and whether promotion and relegation ought to return. In an ideal world, of course it should, but the reason it was abandoned in the first place – the difficulty of moving clubs between a semi-professional and full-time professional competition without destroying those clubs in the process – has not been resolved. Nor is it likely to be until the sport as a whole can generate the kind of income that enables more of its clubs to sustain a full-time operation and remain profitable.
Simply arguing which or how many clubs should be in Super League is a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
RELEASE THE STARS
Departing RFL chairman Richard Lewis was anything but a showman. Criticised in some quarters for lacking the kind of public persona that made his predecessor Maurice Lindsay a household name, I actually think that was one of his virtues. I don’t share the view that the next RFL chairman needs to be a more high profile figure. I’d prefer it if they were simply a confident, competent administrator focused on doing what is right for the game behind the scenes. That means developing a structure that allows all our clubs to reach their full potential, ensuring the international game is promoted as the pinnacle of achievement, providing opportunities to play and watch Rugby League to as many people as possible, and building a sport which attracts the kind of sponsorship and television exposure befitting the quality of entertainment it offers. That’s enough of a challenge already.
Rugby League’s greatest ambassadors are its players. The new chairman should concentrate as much as possible on pushing them forward into the public eye and turning them into household names, rather than focus too much on grabbing the limelight for themselves.
Leeds Rhinos have let it be known they are open to the idea of taking part in an exhibition match to trial ‘hybrid’ rules ultimately designed to unify the two codes of union and league. Cross- code events have happened before, but usually split between one half of league rules and one half union. The hybrid idea is to merge the best elements of both into a new set of rules. Even if that idea were to gain traction in some quarters, it’s a fantasy to imagine we could end up with a single code of rugby. All it would create is a new, third code, hated in equal measure by those who prefer league and union as they are. As for the international consequences, what realistic chance is there to expect the disparate governing bodies of union and league across the globe to reach consensus when we can’t even agree on a standard set of rules within our own sport as it is now.
John Drake, Editor