Initially, several mergers between existing clubs were proposed:
1. Castleford, Wakefield Trinity and Featherstone Rovers would form Calder
2. Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers would form Hull"
3. Whitehaven, Workington Town, Barrow and Carlisle would form Cumbria
4. Warrington and Widnes were to form Cheshire
5. Salford and Oldham were to form Manchester
6. Sheffield and Doncaster were to form South Yorkshire
They were to be included with the following stand-alone clubs: St Helens, Wigan, Leeds, Bradford Northern, Halifax, London, Paris and Toulouse.
Which of these would have been better than the current situation for clubs in that area and which will eventually happen anyway?
I don't really know, but I do think that you cannot dismiss mergers as unworkable or "not in the culture" when there is no evidence to support that because none have been properly tried.
I accept entirely that when stood on the terraces of the Jungle Sunday Cas's 6,000 fans and wakeys's 5,000 "hardcore" fans (not all of the 5K were there of course) if joined in matrimony may only turn out to produce anything between 2,000 fans or 8,000 fans - who knows exactly, but short term the likelihood would be lost fans.
But that does not negate the idea of mergers at all. If HKR have 7,000 fans then the club may be financially unviable unless lot's of workplace and pavement accidents continue to be suffered and litigated through Mr. Hudgell.
The whole purpose of any mergers "alienating hardcore fans" is based on the fact that those hardcore fans often do not produce enough income for a SL club to be viable without sugar daddy support. A restructuring of a club through merger is designed to attract wider support such that in time the merged club becomes a sustainable club. And that support needs building over time.
Culture is an important thing. There's no real culture of RL in west London and so Quins have low crowds. Will the culture build and will Quins ever have crowds that can sustain their business. We don't know, but those against the London club will say that all the evidence is there already that people won't watch RL in London so kick them out - an easy if disingenuous argument. If culture is important it has to be allowed to grow. Similarly if there's no culture for watching a combined Hull/HKR now then a merged club won't pull 20K regularly.....But would it 20 years down the line? Culture is only a short term barrier.
The Cas/Wakey/Fev thing is interesting - had a club being merged there and given a better name than proposed (maybe something with a culture heritage like a mining name would have done better) would that club now be able to draw the magic 10,000 sustainable fan level?? More importantly would they now have a stadium and be secure in SL? Would the old tripartite culture be slipping away?? Would the club be challenging for honours and would the new fanbase care about the past???
I think maybe so. Over many years I have watched the fans come and go and bottom line is if you have a financially unsustainable club because your fanbase or customer base is low then you lose money and eventually lose your standing in the league and the fans peel away anyway. "Hardcore" support in effect can only be counted in the hundreds.
The fact seems to be fans love success and top level RL. That's the difference between 1000 hardcore HKR fans at a Chorley game against the 7,000 now watching the Australian version of HKR. They are a flakey bunch and if a merged club offered SL rugby and a good day out they will come, maybe not tommorrow but in time.
But heed the dark dire warning that if a traditional club abandons it's fans then those fans will "walk away" and there'll be no fans? e.g. if the Hull clubs merged "west Hull would all turn to soccer"
I suspect that the top level RL game itself is much a stronger draw than the tradition of any club by miles, and if it is not then RL is doomed anyway........