Widnes Added To Super League, But What Will They Bring To The Competition?

The Widnes Vikings will participate in Super League again from 2012 and as you can imagine, their fans are ecstatic about the prospect of being in the top flights again.

Recently we have seen players, commentators and fans pushing for Super League to raise revenues and the salary cap. Just about everyone within British Rugby League see’s the need for the game to grow and be able to compete for players with the NRL and Rugby Union.

The need for bigger sponsors and a better television deal are at the heart of these calls. They are the lifeblood of any sporting competition.

So how does adding a team in Widnes help that cause?

Put simply, it doesn’t.

What will Widnes add to Super League from next season?

Their supporter base isn’t anything to write home about. Their playing strength isn’t good. Their junior development isn’t a strong point. Financially, they are certainly not up to the standard that a Super League club should be at. Their stadium is alright but hey, with all the stadiums dotted around the UK, if we started to admit teams just on their stadium Super League would be a 578 team competition!

When other sporting competition decide to add new teams, they look at a few areas in which the team in question has to add something to the competition.

First and foremost is the size of the media market. Will the addition of this new team add more television viewers and broaden the competitions commercial horizons.

They they look at the corporate base. Will adding this new team to the competition open the doors for big sponsors in that area to, not only sponsor the new club, but sponsor other clubs in the competition as well.

From there, priorities start to slide down the scale. Potential fan base, facilities…and we’re not even thinking about the areas ability to produce players these days because you can buy a lineup!

Widnes is a town, one that will not add anything to Super League in terms of being a media market or a corporate base. So with that in mind, why are we adding them?

At least one current Super League club will now face the axe. One club will face the fall to the lower grades, find itself stripped of players, coaches, fans and sponsors who are far more interested in being on the Super League shop front.

The club one club being talked about the most is the Wakefield Wildcats, and fair enough.

Here is what worries me though…

If Wakefield ends up ground sharing with Castleford, they will end up with a pretty good stadium to be playing out of. The Wildcats will at least then finally have a chance to give their fan base a facility that they will be comfortable turning up at.

They have a coach right now who does more with less than any other club in Super League, and when you consider they are stone motherless broke, their lineup isn’t as terrible as it should be.

This is a club that’s produced some decent enough players. Internationals.

Sending Wakefield down now is stripping a fringe Super League club of anything decent it has to build upon. If the RFL’s job is to make the game stronger, how does that work when you get rid of one club, weakening it, and then replacing it with a club that isn’t anything great itself?

It just seems like the RFL set up this process for no other reason than to have a process!

As Super League cries out for wider exposure and more television money, the RFL adds another team in northern England, squeezed between other Super League clubs, and a team who was not that long ago relegated from Super League, deemed not good enough.

Surely this is not how to push the game forward in Great Britain.

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