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A last Crusade?

Australian pushes for governing body to help out clubs financially

Luke Dorn Posted 28th July 2011 view comments

I think everyone had come to the assumption that Wakefield were going to be the side to miss out when the new Super League licences were announced.

Then Crusaders announced they were withdrawing from the running, seemingly barely bothering to tell their players in the process.

I still now can't quite get my head around the decision and, in particular, the timing of it. Surely they must've known before the deadline loomed that they weren't able to sustain a Super League team for three more years?

Crusaders players: facing an uncertain future now without Super League rugby

Crusaders players: facing an uncertain future now without Super League rugby

As for the Rugby Football League, they have been left with egg on their faces by what has happened. They've given Crusaders a helping hand, as they have done with other clubs too, and so it doesn't reflect well on them, as well as the game itself. Quite frankly, it looks amateurish.

I'm a big supporter of the licensing system in general, I think it offers the best chance for the game to blossom and build for the long-term future, but this year's process has been a bit of a mess.

Bigger picture

And then there's the bigger picture; the RFL had pushed hard for a Super League presence in Wales. They wanted to try and keep expanding the game, against strong criticism from those that wanted it to just remain in its northern heartland too, as they had done in London and then into France.

I'm a big supporter of the licensing system in general, I think it offers the best chance for the game to blossom and build for the long-term future, but this year's process has been a bit of a mess.

Luke Dorn
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Now, though, the Crusaders have given up that opportunity. It's tough to see how that club can survive now.

What player is going to want to sign for them? They've proven themselves to be untrustworthy to the squad they currently have, many of whom had signed up for next year and beyond.

I myself would find it quite hard to keep playing now - there are few other jobs in the world where you turn up for work on a Monday morning only to be told that your company would be shutting down shortly, yet they still want you to just carrying on working anyway, possibly without getting paid.

The hard thing for us as rugby league players is that they've got just the one field to work in, meaning they need to be out playing on a regular basis to put themselves in the shop window.

Those that do get sorted out for next year with another team also may not want to risk their bodies, (and rugby league is not a sport you can play half-heartedly, as I've said before in the blog) and who could blame them for that?

You have to feel sorry for those that had signed long-term deals with Crusaders, possibly moving families from Down Under, putting their kids in new schools, and now they are going to face further upheaval. Overseas players in particular will find it tough because quota spots at other clubs are filled quickly, and they need a contract to keep their visas.

The RFL could now decide in future that they don't want to face a similar situation, stopping them from pushing the boundaries of this sport.

What the competition needs is the strongest clubs, because that's how it will survive and, hopefully, thrive. Whether that is with 12, 13 or 14 teams, I don't know.

It wouldn't be good if every team, however, was within 10 or 15 miles of each other. You want to see teams dotted around, making it a national (and in the case of the Dragons international) competition.

But that's perhaps where the RFL have let themselves down a bit. Have they honestly selected the strongest teams that were available? If Wakefield were the best option, then select them for a licence over someone else. If it was a case that someone like a Castleford or Harlequins, for example, was not suitable, then tough decisions should be made for the good of the game.

Personally, I think there are too many teams. I know it's not what people want to hear, but with one or two less in Super League the spread of talent would be much tighter, making for a stronger competition.

We've seen an awful lot of injuries over the past couple of seasons and for the most part, clubs haven't been able to deal with it. They have been too stretched in terms of numbers and quality.

All this comes not long after the RFL announced a pre-tax profit (something they have done for nine straight years now) of £22.8m. Perhaps some of that money, say £500,000, could be given to each team. By doing so, it could be used to help bring in better players or simply covering part of the salary cap, freeing up funds to spend on ground improvements or youth development.

Some of the money the sport is making must start coming back to the clubs, otherwise it just can't hope to prosper.

Comments (2)

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Chris Newton says...

I personally think this liscencing system is an absoloute joke. It only allows the big SL clubs and a few Championship sides to progress. Im a Swinton supporter and know that they are struggling and without a promotion into SL it gives sides that couldnt get through on the licence much interest in progressing.

Posted 16:04 8th August 2011

Paul Gibbins says...

In a way i can see where you are coming from, and you raise some valid points, but you must see that making SL a closed shop will put all lower league clubs out of business. My team, Featherstone, for example were kicked out of the top tier of Rugby League when SL was formed, despite not being in a relegation place, to make way for the failed PSG experiment. At the time Rovers were averaging over 4000 crowds, the numbers have declined year on year but the introduction of Licensing made many outside the top flight think it was a way of producing a closed shop, again many more lower league fans walked away. Over the last 18 months Rovers have been far and away the best and most consistent league team below SL and still our attendances fall, now barely averaging over 1000. If you reduce the number of SL teams and the lower league teams disappear you won't have as big a pool of players hence more over the hill Aussies being brought in looking for one last payday. My idea would be to create a SL1 and SL2 with the existing 14 teams, Leigh, Fax, Fev, Crusaders, Toulouse (or another French team) and say Batley .... have promotion and relegation with one up one down, then any teams below SL2 with aspirations of aiming higher could meet criteria to apply. This way would eventually make clubs serious enough to want to play the game, aim high and get bums on seats. It would also give the supporters meaningful matches to attend, instead of glorified friendlies, and give the honest lower league player a chance to mix it with the big boys.

Posted 13:02 28th July 2011

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