Avoided this until now as this debate tends to be dominated by people that know nothing about Cumbria telling the world at large that A CUMBRIA TEAM MUST BE PUT IN SL (usually at the expense of Welsh/London/French participation).
Just wanted to offer a few words about what the RFL are doing over here, Ant Atherton and the new schools development officer Louise Graham
getting involved with rugby league at all levels in the east of the county since the Centurions stepped down from RLCN. This should help to secure the future for RL in Carlisle and to put things back on a firmer footing than they have been for many years. We have been stuck between two stools for a long time; too strong for the NE or Northern Premier leagues, but with too little strength in depth to guarantee being competitive home and away in the RLCN. Too reliant on 30 something products of previous schools development as the younger players tend to work Saturday mornings and can therefore only play home games in the RLCN. Hopefully a step down and a potential future move to summer by CARLA might see a local side of teenagers and lads in their early 20's being helped around by a couple of the older players (many of whom have taken or are taking their coaching badges). No predictions of future greatness and no promises, but better foundations should produce a more secure club in the long-term.
Getting people at all levels playing the game should be a priority for the RFL, artificially propping up ailing businesses that keep spending beyond their means should only be done in extremis. The situation in the west is one best characterised by the phrase 'in an ideal world we would have one successful club rather than 2 ailing clubs'. The rivalry grew in an era when people stayed in their home town, didn't travel too much and were fiercely parochial. A successful future West Cumbrian club would have to attract support and investment from people (like Dick Raaz) with their roots outside the area. Unfortunately, many rugby league clubs are deeply unwelcoming institutions where strangers are viewed with suspicion, background in other sports can be considered a personality flaw and accents are studied to judge whether you are 'one of us'.
Of course this state of affairs does not hold sway at every club, and everyone doubtless thinks their local club a home of camaraderie and amusing banter, but RL wears its working class heritage on its sleeve like no other sport (except possibly darts), which can dissuade potential players and investors from ever getting involved. Our communities are changing, the successful clubs will attract support from all sections of local society whilst the unsuccessful ones will attract a dwindling band of aging indigenous locals.
I have said for many years that a merged West Cumbrian side would in all likelihood mean Seaton & Wath Brow gained a few hundred fans each as the die-hards refused to back a side including 'Jam-eaters'; the question would be if enough new fans or lapsed fans could be attracted to watch better rugby in better surroundings to compensate. The finances of the West Cumbrian clubs seem to rise and fall with the local economy and both clubs have had plans dashed by councils/football clubs/nuclear industry on many occasions. One thing I don't think can be blamed for the problems on the 'Energy Coast' is franchising; indeed history shows that the historical financial instability stems from the days of automatic promotion and relegation.
I wish both clubs all the best, but think that the future is a West Cumbria club in a SL2 or enhanced Championship including Halifax, Widnes, Fev, Sheffield, Barrow, Oldham, Leigh, Toulouse, South Wales and York/Doncaster (names chosen on basis of clubs currently outside SL, could easily be Wakey/Cas/Salford instead of Fax/Widnes). The remainder of clubs with no real aspirations to compete at the highest level could then stop bankrupting themselves to pay players half decent salaries and take part in an open competition where they could build support, sponsorship and club strength (own facilities, revenue streams, youth development etc;). There is no reason why they could not move back up, but an audit on revenue streams and business plans should be compulsory and avoiding reliance on sugar daddies encouraged.
Rugby League is a sport that desperately needs to expand its geographical supporter base and its player base. This imperative means that all other requirements are secondary until this is done.
All power in the game should be with governing bodies, especially international governing bodies.
Without these actions we will remain a minor sport internationally and nationally.