With just 3 wins from their 17 games, the London Broncos find themselves on the bottom of the Super League ladder.
As someone that has stressed for years the importance of the London Broncos to the future of Super League, even I find myself questioning the future of the club. Where are they headed? What does the game of Rugby League in Great Britain want to get out of its years of investment in the London Broncos and Rugby League in the capital?
Broncos halfback Craig Gower has told BBC London Radio that the Rugby Football League need to give more financial support to the Broncos if they want the club to have any sort of success. Granted he said they as he walked out on the club mid season to return to Australia, but still, the message is a sound one.
I have people telling me all the time that the London Broncos should be axed from Super League. That their crowd averages prove that no one in London cares about Rugby League. I always counter with the argument that Broncos fans rarely have anything worth cheering for at all. That the club goes from one terrible season to another, and that any club in that position would struggle to get anyone through the gates.
Right now it seems as though the Rugby Football League is just happy to have a presence in London. They don’t seem to be too concerned about whether the Broncos are successful or not. That to me is a major issue.
Rugby League needs to have a successful team based in the biggest city in Great Britain. If the London Broncos had were able to have a shred of the success the likes of Leeds, Wigan, St Helens or Bradford have had over the last decade their crowds would be some of the biggest in Super League.
The Rugby Football League can’t expect people to turn up every second week to watch the Broncos getting belted by teams from small towns in northern England. No one is going to pay for that. The people that do turn up to watch Broncos games should all be given gold medals. They are not just supporters, they are die hard, will watch anything, just want to see some Rugby League, fans for life! These are people that have copped years of failure and still turn up!
I can’t fault London Broncos fans. I can fault the management of the club…
The name change from London Broncos to London Harlequins and back didn’t help. The choice of coaches leaves a lot to be desired, with Brian “Every mug before me won at Leeds too” McDermott followed by Rob Powell, before sacking him to bring Tony Rea out of Rugby Union in Australia to have another shot at running the club into the ground.
Obviously as the Broncos sit in 14th place on the Super League ladder, Rea has hit his stride! Why he hasn’t been fired yet is anyone’s guess…
The Broncos have had a number of pretty good owners over the years, but the poor management and lack of support has been a major issue every single time. What Super League club wouldn’t love to say that at one point Richard Branson was an owner? At one point current Wigan owner Ian Lenagan had a stake in the club. There is no doubt these two men known how to run a business, and yet they couldn’t make things work in London.
I believe Super League can work in London, but it needs to be done right. It needs to be a well run club that can work on a budget. It needs to be a club that gets enough support from the Rugby Football League that they can actually attract some of Great Britain’s better players south of Sheffield!
Sam Tomkins recently spoke about his desire to play football in London. Why can’t the Rugby Football League look to make that happen? If it can help out all of the dying clubs of northern England, maybe it would be nice for them to step in and give the Broncos a helping hand without worrying the hordes of the north were going to get upset about it.
I would like to see the Broncos link up with an NRL club (As I would like to see every other Super League club do) and become a viable option for teams to send players to to get a new experience in the game and to maybe help them grow as players.
Sounds unrealistic? Well its the pathway a young Feleti Mateo took. After playing a game for the Parramatta Eels in 2004 Mateo moved to London the following season and played for the Broncos. He has talked about how the experience helped him grow and gave him confidence in his ability as a player. Look at him now…he is a star for the New Zealand Warriors.
A new coach would be great for the Broncos and while I think someone like Brian Smith would be perfect for the club, I don’t think they could afford him. Anyone has to be better than Tony Rea though and you have to wonder if the likes of Iestyn Harris would be worth handing the reigns to.
It would only take a few good decisions and a bit of commitment to get the London Broncos back on track. Whether anyone within the British game can make that happen is anyone’s guess. I’m not confident.
No doubt the Rugby Football League would say that the Broncos fate is in their own hands. That has been their thinking as they have watched numerous Super League clubs enter administration. The London Broncos are far too important to Super League to be allowed to struggle as they have for decades now.
The Broncos have to start getting the support they need. Rugby League needs to work hard to make them a success. Lets give “southerners” a Rugby League team of their own that they can actually cheer for. You never know, they might think enough of the game to start covering those little towns up north with their own sides.