You know what I really like? Rugby League. I just can’t get enough of it. I mean, look at this web site. Its been going now for ten years and I still haven’t run out of things to write about!
Today the Rugby Football League officially announced how their new season structure is going to look starting in 2015. As someone that loves Rugby League I looked at it and thought “Are they joking? I’ve got better things to do than sit down and try to decipher all of this crap. I might see what is on TV instead.”.
That all might seem like a bit of a joke to you, but consider this. If that is how a hardcore Rugby League supporter feels when they look at this season structure, how do you think your average non committed sports fan is going to react when this see this mess?
Any time you need an abacus, a set square, and the knowledge of Pi to the 43rd digit just to work out how a sporting competition runs, you’ve got a problem!
People sometimes forget that you can’t just market Rugby League to die hard supporters. That to truly become successful, Rugby League needs to attract fair weather, non committed, just looking for a decent contest on TV types that don’t care about politics or rivalries but that just want to be able to jump in and be entertained.
Have you ever tried to explain soccer’s off side rule to someone and noticed the very second their eyes glazed over and you lost them? Multiply that by a thousand.
Welcome to Rugby League!
I am not surprised at all that the RFL has finally resorted to open gimmicks to get by. In the past they have tried to be subtle when they have gone out of their way to bullshit to the games supporter base. Now, they don’t even try. They will openly toss any old garbage up these days and claim that it is a revolutionary concept that you won’t see applied anywhere else. They leave out the part where there is a really good reason no other sport would event think of putting together a season structure this ridiculously complicated.
Make no mistake, the clock is ticking on the RFL. Certain Super League clubs have grown tired of their mismanagement. Team owners are seeing their investments being devalued because the RFL couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery.
Do you ever get the feeling that certain Super League clubs are just treading water until the next big thing comes along? Trust me…the owners of Super League clubs are already starting to look beyond the RFL when it comes to the future of the clubs they have invested in.
This untried, untested competition structure will widen the gap between the haves and the have nots. It will push more clubs to the brink of financial ruin. This competition structure will be the catalyst for the next phase of Rugby League in England. It will be one that will descend into farce and that will force a change that is pushed along by Super League club owners who look to salvage something out of the wreckage.
None of this is good for the game. For the RFL to come up with this rubbish as a means to save the sport in England…you have to wonder what they are doing with their time and the games money.
So, what do I think will come from all of this?
First of all, I think the competition structure will be so complicated that most fans won’t really care about it. Many people just won’t take the time to sit down and try to understand what is happening to their clubs and to the competition. They’ll have better things to do!
That will lead to apathy among an already battered supporter base in England, and apathy is something no sporting competition wants creeping into its fan base.
I think this season structure will take current mid table Super League clubs and devalue them. This will further widen the gap between the top spending clubs and the bottom spending clubs. The Rugby Football League will enforce different tiers of competition onto the game through this new competition structure, and out of that we will see the gap widen between the natural tiers of the game we already have in place.
Championship clubs will over spend in an effort to try and move up, while mid table and lower table Super League clubs will start making short term decisions based on avoiding relegation and avoiding dropping out of the top tier of competition…both of which will hurt a clubs bottom line and put further financial strain on them.
We will see that the game simply does not have the player pool to support two divisions that are so heavily intertwined. All of this will be happening as clubs remain under-funded and players look to leave English Rugby League for bigger paydays elsewhere.
Do you think this new competition structure will still be in place 50 years from now? How about 20 years? What about 10 years? Will it make 5 years? If you are going to fundamentally change the very fabric of English Rugby League in this manner, shouldn’t it be a long term solution? Shouldn’t it look like it will stand the test of time?
Clubs will start to panic at some point. They will either move against the Rugby Football League (Something that was closer to happening in the last off season than I think most people realise) or they will reach out to outside influences in an effort to save themselves from what they will see as a disastrous long term outcome.
Clubs will have three choices…
1. They can set up and run their own elite competition.
2. They can approach the National Rugby League to either set themselves up as a long term expansion option or feed themselves in as a lower tier level of the competition.
3. They can will sit down with the Rugby Football Union and ask what they would get out of a code switch.
They are all drastic measures. They are better options than continuing down the same path and slowly watching a club you’ve invested millions of pounds into slowly fading away.
More than a decade ago I spoke of the great financial collapse that Super League was heading towards. I remember telling Bradford Bulls supporters that their club, as it won every trophy on offer, was financially unsustainable and was not immune to falling off a financial precipice one day. Just last year I warned that the London Broncos were about to implode well before the club was stripped of its assets, relocated, and then ran as a shell of a club from that point on.
I don’t like being right about those sorts of things. I don’t like seeing a future for the game in England that is a shadow of what it should be.
When I look at this competition restructure, all I see are problems. All I see is a gimmick that has been put in place by an administration that has no answers left.
The clock is ticking on the Rugby Football League. They know it. There are clubs right now that are very nervous about the future and they are just treading water until the time comes when they are forced to make some very tough decisions.
One way or another, this competition restructure will lead to a revolution within English Rugby League. Where that will leave the game in 20 years from now is anyone’s guess. How we will look back on this convoluted competition restructure is probably a little more clear.
I suspect in 2034 we will be shaking our heads and wondering what the hell the old Rugby Football League administration thought it was doing when it came up with such a ridiculous idea.