Feb 20, 2013 League Freak International Rugby League News 5
Recent talk that the World Club Challenge will be expanded is interesting to me, simply because the calls to expand it are not coming from Australia. They are all from Great Britain. Because of this, I try to keep up to speed on what people are saying about the concept and looking for some sort of concrete evidence that an expanded World Club Challenge will actually happen.
Last night I came across this article written by Neil Barraclough, who tends to have the same attitude of “I’ll believe it when I see it” that I have on this whole subject. One thing that stood out for me in his article was a quote by Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington.
“People often describe Australians as insular, but we’re encouraging them to become more global in their vision for the sport”
It is not surprising to hear a comment like this made by an English Rugby League administrator. These people are self entitled and speak above their standing in the game all the time.
As the Chief Executive of one of the few solvent Rugby League clubs in Great Britain, Hetherington is very typical of the types of attitudes you get within the game in Great Britain. For now, they are winning, and that always means the sun shines out of his arse. Forget the fact that winning in Super League simply means buying success. Forget that the quality of the competition is so poor that you only have to beat one or two other teams to call yourself a “champion”.
Look past the fact that most of Great Britain doesn’t give a damn about Rugby League and that most of what we see coming out of the Rugby Football League is smoke and mirrors trying to distract all and sundry from the obvious fact that Rugby League in Great Britain is pretty close to its final death rattle.
The fact is, if it wasn’t for Australia and New Zealand, Rugby League would not exist any more.
Now, this is going to upset the British, but that doesn’t worry me. The days of the Great Britain being relevant at all in this game are long gone. When the game in Great Britain finally does die, it won’t have any effect anywhere else the game is currently played. You see, Great Britain doesn’t realize that is the case. They still feel like they run the game, when that hasn’t been the case for generations.
While the likes of Hetherington deride Australia as insular, just take a look at Rugby League in England itself.
There is a very good reason why the sport has failed to expand in any meaningful way in the last 118 years. In 2013 you don’t have to go very far at all to find someone who will tell you that Rugby League shouldn’t have a team in London. Not a minority of people, the majority will tell you this.
They will then attack the media for not giving Rugby League the coverage it supposedly deserves. National television networks and newspapers simply must be out of their minds to not carry the news coming out of Widnes, Wakefield, Castleford, Wigan and the various other tiny little towns in nothern England. Surely the nation is on the edge of its seats for clashed between Bradford and Hull or Warrington and St Helens.
They wonder why multinational companies do not want anything to do with a competition that only has a few games broadcast every weekend on pay television out of these small towns mentioned. They put it down to some sort of bias against the game, because as you know, CEO’s across England have waited all their life to strangle the game of Rugby League of funding.
Looking past the fact that a number of Super League clubs have gone bust in recent years, it is pretty obvious the government is also looking to finish the game off. The recent funding cut by Sport England is a sign that the government simply doesn’t want to spend millions of dollars on a game played across the nation, and by that I mean in small parts of the nation.
The southerners are soft. Why even take the game to them? They are not needed!
Also, Soccer and Rugby Union, lets not forget them. Two sports going out of their ways to destroy Rugby League at every chance they can get. I’m pretty suspicious of Darts as well to tell you the truth…
In 1980 the top Rugby League competition in Australia was based solely in Sydney. The Penrith Panthers were a frontier team. Since 1980 the top flight competition in Australia has added Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Townsville, the Gold Coast and even a team in Auckland New Zealand. There have also been ill fated expansions to Adelaide and Perth during that time, but look for the Australian Rugby League to head back to those cities some time soon and get the job done right.
During that same time, the Rugby Football League have expanded the top flight competition to London, who are still with us today, southern France, who survive thanks to being self sufficient, Paris which is obviously no longer with us and Cardiff/Wrexham who are also no longer with us.
In fact if you brought someone from 1895 into 2013 who was at the original meeting in which the decision was made to form Rugby League, I’m sure they would look at the teams involved and feel pretty sad about the whole thing. Rugby League in Great Britain has simply failed to expand at all.
While Australian and New Zealand clubs scout the Pacific Islands, holding coaching clinics and playing games in regional centers and areas where there are no top flight teams, when was the last time we saw English teams do something similar? When was the last time we saw a Super League game played in Birmingham for instance? What does Dublin have to do to see a game of Super League? Will there be a single Super League game played in Wales this year? Is Scotland too far to travel?
As “insular Australians” expand this game as best as they can, not only across Australia, but into other countries, what is England even doing to expand the game in England?
While the English have spent over a century twiddling their thumbs and making accusations about the rest of the world, the likes of Australia, New Zealand, France, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Untied State, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands and Lebanon have simply got on with the job.
The last time we held a World Cup in England, it was such a financial disaster that the game in Great Britain really never recovered. Put that up against the 2008 World Cup which was an outstanding success and memorable for the way it allowed Rugby League communities to celebrate our game as one.
You see, that is something English Rugby League types simply don’t understand. For the rest of the world, it isn’t Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji….we are not all separate and against each other. We are one community. We all love this game and we play this game together. We don’t run out onto the field waving flags and chest beating about the little town we come from. We are team mates. We are brothers.
That is not part of Great Britain’s Rugby League culture. They see the incredible multicultural mix of NRL talent and boast that it is a sign of weakness in the Australian game. They completely dismiss New Zealand at every opportunity, and the Pacific Islands…they might as well not exist. You never hear the English speaking of Rugby League in the United States despite the fact Australia sends development teams there and even played a test against the United States not that long ago.
You always have to be careful when you describe an entire country as insular. Especially one you are trying to convince to go out of its way and play games against a small selection of your northern England based teams to fight for a trophy that means nothing to anyone outside of northern England. Much like the rest of the Rugby League playing world, Australia does not needs England at all. We are happy to provide it with charity in sending over one of our sides every year and touring the country many times more than Great Britain has in the last 20 years, but that charity can only go so far. Especially in the face of insults and petty, insular attitude from officials that run small clubs in northern England.
At the end of the day, Rugby League in Great Britain is all about ego’s. People in Great Britain need to be careful that those ego’s do not get in the way of their own games survival. After all, it is going to come to a point where all the smoke and mirrors the Rugby Football League can conjure up will not save the game from its imminent demise.
When that moment arrives, people like Gary Hetherington had better hope that us insular Australia’s are willing to come to the rescue once again.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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I agree with most of the article, I feel Rugby league will always have a future in the UK however I feel that the RFL should concentrate on the heartlands and get that right before they look at more expansion of the game. When it’s in a healthy state then take it on the road and expand gradually, that way it will be right.They only keep the London side to try and keep the National papers interested which at best only a couple of them are. The problem with the RFL is that it’s run by people who dont have history within the game, usually Southern businessmen. More ex players should be encouraged to stay within the game in roles such as publicity and marketing, they know the game and the target audience, it works in Australia.
An expanded World Club concept – given time to bed in would work, and it would benefit the game as whole. How do you get the standard of the game in the UK to improve? You need the club teams to face up to the NRL ones on a regular basis. Sure they’ll be a few beatings but the UK teams will have to evolve as a result – and they would. It would be a case of all the parties involved hold their nerve.
Super League was playing in Scotland – they held two magic weekends there, did loads of promotion. They held magic weekends in Cardiff, they’ve taken game on road in previous years. The thing is it was the core fans that were the main make up of the crowds each time. You can give other regions the chance to get watch games, you can’t force them through the doors though. I think a lot of people would like a magic weekend to be held in Dublin – Lansdowne Rd is the perfect size but Dublin is also hugely expensive so there is a risk involved.
You mention the last World Cup being a failure – you know why? They tried to take games to non-heartland areas to give everyone a chance to watch games. The problem then was getting the heartlands fans to travel to these places. If anything they went too far. Out of interest how many 2008 games were played outside of QLD/NSW? I can think of one – Aus v Eng in Melbourne. That’s hardly expanding to Western Aus, NT, SA etc is it. The RFL have been a bit smarter this time with the fixtures – call it careful expansion http://www.rlwc2013.com/fixtures
You talk of promoting the game and assisting outside of the UK. i give you an example of Warrington helping the Deutschland RL only last week http://www.warringtonwolves.org/wolves-welcome-rugby-league-deutschland-5990 You mention Australia playing a test against the USA. GB have done that in the past too. If the NRL are serious about it they’ll take another SOO game to the US – or how about taking a full round of NRL games to the US? Will it happen? No, because it’ll cost too much and you won’t get the attendances.
I could go a lot further if i had the time to.
This made me giggle. You are spot on but you must understand that it is not just RL administrators saying “we’re doing well so fuck off Australia”, it’s a general attitude in this country to not admit they are wrong rather than look at the faults and correct them. When RL is failing, they cry to Australia for help but won’t say thank you. In my opinion, they need to focus on youth camps and generate success from young British players rather than send the ok players here to NRL and accept Aussie cast off’s. the reason soccer, union and “darts” are more recognised as success is because they are recognised. The only publicity RL is getting at the moment is an ad on sky of Bradley Wiggins cycling on a bike with Sam Tomkins running beside him saying “deep down I wish I was a rugby league player”… As if young lads are gonna go “oh yeah sign me up”.
But the NRL is hardly an all conquering force in their home country. They are in second place to Australian rules across many areas. If RL in OZ struggles to make inroads against OZ rules imagine the problem against football as in GB. RL in GB competes along side some of the most well known and largest sports organisations on the planet. Australian clubs don’t. You are correct about recognisation. RL is not recognised now by tradition. We have the best supported and watched domestic rugby competition in the UK. Our cup competition has more viewers yet we still see RU games with with one man and his dog watching reported on while RL is dismissed. I don’t see any credibility from the accusations of what has England done to expand the game. If it is disenfrachised from schools and one sport football dominates everything then you have a problem. England has made inroads into all the home nations with varying successes. Barely a week goes by without some foreign contingent being hosted by a club for experience. It is unfortunate that the insularity of Australia denies them the clear view and weight of all the issues of the game in GB.
And without GB International RL would be Australia playing it’s nearest neighbour, only competitive because the NZ players compete in the Australian league.
disagree with expansion at club level, they have tried with more than just paris and crusaders; gateshead, kent, nottingham, sure there was another team from south wales too, carlisle, and if you can include newcastle in the nrl i suppose you could push it and include places like blackpool, sheffield and donny too. and now theres skolars, stags, al golds and oxford coming into the league. its expansion has failed massively from semi-pro and up but it has tried none the less. internationally though it has done barely anything. the amatuer bodies do send touring teams out but at elite level the rfl has done bugger all. the likes of wales and france are okish but lack alot of support still and the rest of europe, forget about it.
having a wcc with teams outside the champions would be stupid. the current format is poor now. leeds went from selling out elland road at nearly 40k to now just selling out a stadium half that size in a few years. it should be built up on both sides, and hosted alternate by both countries. itneeds alot of promotion and would lose money at first but eventually it could be a top fixture.