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The SKY contract for RL - good or bad?


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#161 The Parksider

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 08:14 PM

It is not true. Just because you say so dosn't make it so. What money does the Army RL for instance ger from Sky or any University side or any conference side. None.

Furthermore, I was a kid playing RL once. My friends and I played amateur RL because we liked and enjoyed it. I was forced to play RU at school but chose to play RL of my own volition. No kid says," I think I am such a brilliant sportsman, I will pursue a professional career, now, which sport will give me the most money?". That's just a load of rubbish.


I take John's point although it does take the principle to the n'th degree.

I take your point that Superleague is not the be all and end all of a game that is somehow totally reliant on it.

I do want to debate the issues without the argument becoming polarised and the barricades going up as always happens on here.

I think if you take away the SKY money then there must be some element of the top players walking away. There must be some element of fans walking away. Exactly how much of a loss immediately and how much of a further loss over time we don't know.

Negligble??? I don't think so, Extreme??? I don't think so. As always the answer may lie in the middle.

The advent of pro RL saw top division crowds rise from 5500 to to an average 8800, 1995 to 2011. Certainly a return to semi pro could arguably see crowds drop back towards that level.

However as Australia and Union (both now fully pro and thriving) would be a lure for our stars could we offer fans the same quality of RL under a semi pro league in say 2015 than we could 1995? The answer has to be probably not. Not good.

There is of course a big element of people playing RL now because they like it, but moreso because then CAN play it and the free gangway ensured that they can play it anywhere. Even if they do play it anywhere and everywhere, any top teenager who starts to think about a pro career would be hitting a brick wall without SKY. Not good.

We certainly cannot assume that what we have we will hold without SKY. The factors are complicated.

In the period 1947 - 1950 our game boomed. 20 years on our game was on it's knees I remember watching Hunslet and Bramley on crowds in the hundreds and Leeds on a few thousand. There was little saturday amateur RL in Leeds and the sunday league pub sides had to drop to 11 a side. This was the heartlands. Oxley and BARLA took the game upwards, SKY and the free gangway arguably elevated it further, but we must remember nothing can be taken for granted.

RL has gone from boom to almost bust in the past, even in it's own heartlands.

#162 petero

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 08:37 PM

The issue, though is not that players we no good before Sky/SL but where would those players be now if Sky etc had not happened. I'd say those players would be playing union at the top level, not amateur or semi pro rugby league.


If, as you say 'Sky etc had not happened' the World's of R/L and RU would have remained as they where, in all probability?

We would play in winter as then, satisfying some, with a two division set-up possibly and R/U would be watched at club level still, watched by two men a woman and their dogs, with their FOUR nations comp still sustaining their only interest Nationwide.

Without Sky's intervention that status quo would have very possibly have carried on as it was, would be and, very likely would ever be. As with sky : if my auntie had B..... she would have been my uncle.
They did happen along and we now simply have to try for the best we can.

#163 Padge

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 08:52 PM

What Sky funding are those teams getting.? Not very much.

I would agree with you about the relaxation of the RU ban but that has absolutely nothing to do with the Sky money. The RU would be no problem to RL if it were not professional and once it went pro the lifting of the ban was inevitable.

The relaxation of the RU ban was a direct consequence of the Sky deal. Union was dragging its heals and arguing about professionalism. The IR(U)B turned a blind eye to countries where payments were made quite openly, Southern Hemisphere, and knew that brown envelope deals were still happening in the Northern Hemisphere. The home nations were desperate to maintain the status quo.

Once Murdoch agreed a deal to from SL and thus make it possible for a large number of rugby players to become full time professionals the RFU buckled. They knew that the newly cash rich SL clubs would be in the market for unions top talent and could afford it. Very quickly the RFU decided that they had no choice but to allow their own players to be paid competitive rates, above board, to stop a flood of converts. There was other pressures but the SL deal tipped the balance.

The SL deal didn't just change our game it massively changed union as well.

Edited by Padge, 11 December 2012 - 08:52 PM.


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#164 Padge

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 08:54 PM

If, as you say 'Sky etc had not happened' the World's of R/L and RU would have remained as they where, in all probability?

We would play in winter as then, satisfying some, with a two division set-up possibly and R/U would be watched at club level still, watched by two men a woman and their dogs, with their FOUR nations comp still sustaining their only interest Nationwide.

Without Sky's intervention that status quo would have very possibly have carried on as it was, would be and, very likely would ever be. As with sky : if my auntie had B..... she would have been my uncle.
They did happen along and we now simply have to try for the best we can.

The change to summer was going to happen anyway.

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#165 Ackydave

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 09:21 PM

In the Championship over the past few years we've seen some really exciting games from teams that may not have the Aussie stars or the so called "quality" players that grace the SL. These games and the league placings have been exciting non-the-less. You could, no doubt, get the same in lower leagues and pub leagues. That's what keeps us going. In the words of that well known capper - Einstein - It's all a question of relativity.

#166 Padge

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 09:58 PM

In the Championship over the past few years we've seen some really exciting games from teams that may not have the Aussie stars or the so called "quality" players that grace the SL. These games and the league placings have been exciting non-the-less. You could, no doubt, get the same in lower leagues and pub leagues. That's what keeps us going. In the words of that well known capper - Einstein - It's all a question of relativity.

The championship dishes up good value, there is nothing wrong with it, it is a great competition in its own right. Unfortunately it very often gets a bad press from, well, its own supporters. They would soone r talk it down than talk it up.

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#167 sweaty craiq

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:02 PM

Most fans want to talk about why most fans are fans, ie the dream that keeps sport alive, well most sports......

#168 Northern Sol

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:31 PM

The relaxation of the RU ban was a direct consequence of the Sky deal. Union was dragging its heals and arguing about professionalism. The IR(U)B turned a blind eye to countries where payments were made quite openly, Southern Hemisphere, and knew that brown envelope deals were still happening in the Northern Hemisphere. The home nations were desperate to maintain the status quo.

Once Murdoch agreed a deal to from SL and thus make it possible for a large number of rugby players to become full time professionals the RFU buckled. They knew that the newly cash rich SL clubs would be in the market for unions top talent and could afford it. Very quickly the RFU decided that they had no choice but to allow their own players to be paid competitive rates, above board, to stop a flood of converts. There was other pressures but the SL deal tipped the balance.

The SL deal didn't just change our game it massively changed union as well.


No, sorry that's nonsense.

There were two different TV offers flying about for rugby union from the 1991 R[U]WC. Another 1895 style break-away was inevitable with Australia and New Zealand leading the way.

The IRB decided to embrace professionalism and allow payments to players at International level only but as an act of petulance the RFU (against professionalism) made sure that professionalism would also apply to the club game as they thought it would be a poisoned chalice (and perhaps they were right).

#169 Northern Sol

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:34 PM


http://www.guardian....ue.superleaguex

"I had been aware for a while that rugby union was about to turn professional," recalled Lindsay, who after years of vilification as the Rugby Football League's chief executive returned to Wigan as chairman in 1999.

"I had a number of meetings with Vernon Pugh [the late chairman of union's International Rugby Board] at the East India Club, of all places - I'm surprised they let me through the doors.

"He and Clive Rowlands, the secretary, were openly talking about professionalism, and the possible merger between league and union. And if we hadn't effected the Super League, there's absolutely no doubt that the likes of Jason Robinson would have multiplied by hundreds."


Mo took the Sky money in part because he knew professionalism was coming to union.


#170 Padge

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:44 PM

Did I not say they were dragging their feet, I didn't say it wouldn't happen. Once Sky offered RL a lot of money union had to jump.

This notion that Mo was suprised to be allowed through the door is also a rubbish, the RFL and the RFU and even the FA had had joint meetings in the past, particularly to talk about TV coverage.

It may come as a shock but the commercial interests behind the scenes have always outweighed the public rivalry of what goes on on the pitch.

Edited by Padge, 11 December 2012 - 11:50 PM.


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#171 Ackydave

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 12:15 AM

The championship dishes up good value, there is nothing wrong with it, it is a great competition in its own right. Unfortunately it very often gets a bad press from, well, its own supporters. They would soone r talk it down than talk it up.


I think you'll find the vast majority of Championship fans don't "talk it down" at all. What they do talk down is the perceived unfairness of not being able to progress and get rewards for hard work and good rugby.
Over the past few seasons we've seen some cracking games and the league has been exciting - more so than SL.

#172 The Parksider

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:16 PM

If, as you say 'Sky etc had not happened' the World's of R/L and RU would have remained as they where, in all probability?

They did happen along and we now simply have to try for the best we can.


My question was not where would we be if SKY had not come along at all, but where would we be if we had refused to go professional with SKY. It comes from the argument that SKY actually hasn't been good for the game or hasn't been as good as it could have been

You say "we simply have to try for the best we can" because the deals done and 17 years down the road. I'd agree with that but wondered if on analysis there was anything in the idea we may have had any real choice when it came to signing up.

Whilst everyone says they loves their clubs and "will support them forever more" etc the question arises in it's most to the point form, would people still support their club playing at CC1 level IF the effect of rejecting the SKY contract would have dragged us down to that level??

It doesn't look like the vast majority will

#173 The Parksider

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:21 PM

I think you'll find the vast majority of Championship fans don't "talk it down" at all. Over the past few seasons we've seen some cracking games and the league has been exciting - more so than SL.


I like it and I agree with you. Semi pro RL which are clubs shorn of access to it's top stars is still a fine product. Could we still sell that product to average crowds of 8,800 average crowds like we can Superleague, if thirty of our best have gone to Australia, and another twenty have defected to RU??

Can we still keep those fans interest??

Can we still get the kids to play in enough numbers to re-stock the playing rosters in years to come.

#174 keighley

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 04:21 PM

The relaxation of the RU ban was a direct consequence of the Sky deal. Union was dragging its heals and arguing about professionalism. The IR(U)B turned a blind eye to countries where payments were made quite openly, Southern Hemisphere, and knew that brown envelope deals were still happening in the Northern Hemisphere. The home nations were desperate to maintain the status quo.

Once Murdoch agreed a deal to from SL and thus make it possible for a large number of rugby players to become full time professionals the RFU buckled. They knew that the newly cash rich SL clubs would be in the market for unions top talent and could afford it. Very quickly the RFU decided that they had no choice but to allow their own players to be paid competitive rates, above board, to stop a flood of converts. There was other pressures but the SL deal tipped the balance.

The SL deal didn't just change our game it massively changed union as well.


That's a plausible theory but I have questions as to how accurate it is. RL had been pillaging RU for players since 1895 right up to the advent of the Sky deal. I don't think the Sky deal was of such a magnitiude that it tipped the balance for RU to go professional.

The pristine amateur ideals so beloved of RU and so mightily defended by them over the years ( Rules as to Professionalism etc )was an invention of the English upper class to preserve their game for themselves both prior to and after the schism of 1895. They were never such a big deal in the southern hemisphere who could see not too much wrong with paying their players, hence the large expenses allowed when they toured.

This had come to a head, coincidentally at the same time as the SL war broke out bringing Sky to the UK, and the Southern hemisphere RU nations were practically in open rebellion against the Northern amateur ideals. Money from TV was coming into the game, players wanted to write books and coach and were prevented by these amateurism rules. They wanted a share of the pie and to be able to capitalise on their talent. The power of European Rugby, France, had been paying lip service to the amateur principles for years and were even banned in the 1930s leading to the formation of French RL. They too were seriously agitating for professionalism.At the same time in the Northern hemishpere, following the advent of leagues and knock out competitons in RU, the players wanted to share in the money flowing into the game.

The waters that were held in by the damn of the amateur principles were too strong. The damn was about to break and the RFU could see another massive split about to rend their game into pieces and they would have been isolated, divorced from the huge monies brought into the game by matches against France and the Southern hemishpere countries, with a homegrown player rebellion brewing in their own house. They were dragged kicking and screaming into the realities of professionalism to save their skins and English RU.

I will agree that the threat from cashed up Sky financed RL clubs might have been another factor in their decision but it was only a peripheral issue. The main factors pushing RU to professionalise were practically totally internal, from within RU.

Once they made the decision to go professional, then , of course, there was no justification for the ban, if there ever had been, and it was quickly consigned to the dustbin of history.



#175 keighley

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 05:01 PM

I take John's point although it does take the principle to the n'th degree.

I take your point that Superleague is not the be all and end all of a game that is somehow totally reliant on it.

I do want to debate the issues without the argument becoming polarised and the barricades going up as always happens on here.

I think if you take away the SKY money then there must be some element of the top players walking away. There must be some element of fans walking away. Exactly how much of a loss immediately and how much of a further loss over time we don't know.

Negligble??? I don't think so, Extreme??? I don't think so. As always the answer may lie in the middle.

The advent of pro RL saw top division crowds rise from 5500 to to an average 8800, 1995 to 2011. Certainly a return to semi pro could arguably see crowds drop back towards that level.

However as Australia and Union (both now fully pro and thriving) would be a lure for our stars could we offer fans the same quality of RL under a semi pro league in say 2015 than we could 1995? The answer has to be probably not. Not good.

There is of course a big element of people playing RL now because they like it, but moreso because then CAN play it and the free gangway ensured that they can play it anywhere. Even if they do play it anywhere and everywhere, any top teenager who starts to think about a pro career would be hitting a brick wall without SKY. Not good.

We certainly cannot assume that what we have we will hold without SKY. The factors are complicated.

In the period 1947 - 1950 our game boomed. 20 years on our game was on it's knees I remember watching Hunslet and Bramley on crowds in the hundreds and Leeds on a few thousand. There was little saturday amateur RL in Leeds and the sunday league pub sides had to drop to 11 a side. This was the heartlands. Oxley and BARLA took the game upwards, SKY and the free gangway arguably elevated it further, but we must remember nothing can be taken for granted.

RL has gone from boom to almost bust in the past, even in it's own heartlands.


I have no argument with that post. I have supported the taking of the Sky money from the get go. The only reservations I have have have been as to the percentage given to the CC clubs as being too small and the ring fencing of the top tier by self interested members of the top level cabal.

I have not advocated dispensing with the Sky money eiher. In fact, I have advocated approaching them for more because we deserved it given the viewing figures and their need of out game for their programme content so that we could expand the top tier.

The problem is that the money is either not enough or we have set the bar too high. The failure rate of SL clubs due to wage demands is too great. Wakefield, Bradford, Crusaders, Paris,Salford have all gone to the wall and the severe weaknesses at others, Castleford, London and Hull KR amounts to more than 50% of the league. This is not the sign of a great, successful and vibrant league and so I can sympathise with those who would postulate that the Sky money had not been the overwhelming success, its most zealous supporters claim.

I think that it is all coming to a head with the latest crisis being at Salford.

The only solutions available are an increase in Sky money or a cutting of costs. If nothing is done SL will implode and may die. A fully professional SL on present level of funding is not viable.

If we have to lower wages and or go semi pro to become sustainable, then , as you postulate, spectators may walk and we will fall even farther behind Australia. The game has difficult decisions to make but, in my opinion, retaining the present status quo of fully a professional league without the money to operate it is not an option.

#176 Northern Sol

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 05:39 PM

Did I not say they were dragging their feet, I didn't say it wouldn't happen. Once Sky offered RL a lot of money union had to jump.


They had already jumped before Sky offered RL a penny. Pugh was hardly asking Mo for advice. His organisation had already accepted professionalism as inevitable and were discussing whether "professional rugby" would like to rejoin the RFU.

Pugh wasn't worried so much about Bradford Northern buying up rugby union players, he was worried about a Packer or Murdoch-funded Super Rugby doing so and about the loss of income with no more All-Black or Wallaby tours (since all their players would be "professional"). Far, far more damaging.

Edited by Northern Sol, 12 December 2012 - 05:39 PM.


#177 shaun mc

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 05:42 PM

However, 14 clubs times £1.1m Sky money = £15.4m p.a
That £15.4m could be divided amongst a new top tier of 10 SL clubs (£1.54m to each club), and then arguably a full salary cap could be paid. Revenue from increased crowds could be possible and the business model may not be of losses outside the top few clubs.
However, we'd seriously have to think about ring-fencing SL totally, without licencing once the top 10 were decided and voted in, and without even discussing P&R, as the huge gap to the Championshiop would become a chasm of unreachable proportions, even if a CC club grew it's revenue to £1.5m and 3000 attendances.
Would the clubs go for it - the current top 8 would.
Would the rest of the RL game? Would there be a choice?

The only choice would be to eek a few more quid out of Sky (maybe £4 - £5m per year) to either underpin a top 10 SL even more, or to go towards a different distribution of funds for the idea of a 2 x 10 club SL that has mooted recently on here.

Edited by shaun mc, 12 December 2012 - 05:44 PM.


#178 Northern Sol

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 06:16 PM

It had nothing to do with British rugby league and Sky. Pugh and the Northern Unions would have accepted the loss of European rugby union players.

It had to do with a threatened SANZAR break-away that was part a response to Australian rugby league but mostly the fear of a professional rugby union league outside their remit. SANZAR presented the IRB with a stark choice either you agree to professionalism or we will break away and play professional rugby union anyway. The IRB decided that they couldn't do without Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and promptly endorsed professionalism.

Despite the increasing revenue raised from television rights, sponsorship and advertising, the IRB attempted to maintain the cherished principles of amateurism.
However, the pressure to allow players to be paid openly for playing became too intense by the mid 1990s. The impetus for change came particularly from the Southern Hemisphere national unions as a result of a combination of factors involving competition between rugby union and professional rugby league for players, the deregulation of broadcasting in both Australia and New Zealand, and a struggle for television rights in both codes. This increased the demand for televised rugby competitions and the derived demand for rugby players. This put pressure on rugby union administrators to supply competitions in order both to meet the demand and to generate revenue to retain the involvement of key players.

Deregulation of broadcasting brought an increased demand for the rights to broadcast popular sport, including league and union. Prior to 1989, Television New
Zealand (TVNZ) had a monopoly on television sports coverage in New Zealand. However, the situation changed to one of multiple bidders with the establishment of TV3 (a privately owned terrestrial channel) in 1989 and, even more significantly, Sky Television (a pay-TV satellite provider) in 1990. In 1992, the NZRFU sold the broadcasting rights of the All Blacks’ tour of South Africa to Sky Television; this deal provided the NZRFU with significant additional revenue, boosted significantly the number of Sky Television subscribers and ended the public broadcaster’s monopoly on televising rugby union matches (Obel, 2001). In Australia, deregulation of broadcasting in 1995 intensified competition for television rights, especially for league. This led to a split in rugby league in Australia
into two competing professional competitions: the Australian Rugby League backed by Kerry Packer’s Optus Vision and Super League with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. This put upward pressure on salaries of league players and increased the attraction of defection to league from still-amateur union players in Australia and New Zealand.

In response to a potentially damaging drain of players to league and the market opportunity that existed for union competitions that would meet the increased
demand for televised rugby union, the national organizing bodies, the NZRFU, the ARU and SARFU, combined to form SANZAR and agreed a contract worth US$550m over ten years with News Corporation. Before this came to fruition, the national unions had to fight a rearguard action to prevent the loss of key players to the World Rugby Corporation (WRC), a rival global professional rugby organization backed by Kerry Packer. For a variety of reasons (well documented in Obel, 2001), the WRC collapsed, but the threat posed by the WRC led to the introduction of professional contracts in order to retain key players. This left SANZAR in a dominant position, with commercial control over the most exciting and valuable competitions in Southern Hemisphere rugby. It was thus able to exert sufficient pressure on the IRB to renounce the amateur eligibility rules and hence legalize the Southern Hemisphere professional contracts.



#179 Northern Sol

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 06:23 PM

Ironically the Sky deal saved the IRB's bacon because otherwise the WRC deal may have gone through.


1995
The Kerry Packer-backed World Rugby Corporation unveiled plans for a professional rugby "circus" that posed a serious threat to the future of rugby union as an amateur game at its highest level.

Reports suggested that nearly a thousand leading players had been recruited for three years to play in a 30-team competition. Packer had previously created a similar venture with the ground-breaking World Series Cricket series, a breakaway competition that ran in opposition to established international cricket between 1977 and 1979. The scheme reportedly failed when the world champion Springboks decided en masse to stay with the establishment, which was supported by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.



#180 keighley

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 06:35 PM

However, 14 clubs times £1.1m Sky money = £15.4m p.a
That £15.4m could be divided amongst a new top tier of 10 SL clubs (£1.54m to each club), and then arguably a full salary cap could be paid. Revenue from increased crowds could be possible and the business model may not be of losses outside the top few clubs.
However, we'd seriously have to think about ring-fencing SL totally, without licencing once the top 10 were decided and voted in, and without even discussing P&R, as the huge gap to the Championshiop would become a chasm of unreachable proportions, even if a CC club grew it's revenue to £1.5m and 3000 attendances.
Would the clubs go for it - the current top 8 would.
Would the rest of the RL game? Would there be a choice?

The only choice would be to eek a few more quid out of Sky (maybe £4 - £5m per year) to either underpin a top 10 SL even more, or to go towards a different distribution of funds for the idea of a 2 x 10 club SL that has mooted recently on here.


This is nonsense. A 10 team SL means 4 current SL teams are to be disposed of. The league want a 2nd French club and a Welsh club, that'a another two teams to be jettisoned. A 10 team league means 18 league games. That's going to reduce revenue by a lot. The monotonous nature of the fixture list would turn people off. Someone would still have to finish bottom and might not be able to compete without their investor, London comes to mind. If they go to the wall, you will have a 9 team league with no ready repacement due to your contemplated total ring fencing of SL.

If you go that route, the CC clubs will seriously comtemplate a breakaway competition. They will have no choice and with 5 or 6 of the former SL clubs in their ranks, plus a greater geographical spread of clubs, plus lesser wage costs, it might just be a more attractive league than the rump SL you are proposing. Looking at the sponsors Featherstone have recently found, there might be a market out there for more investment or sponsorship for a breakaway league with a countrywide exposure.

Is that what we want, a split game? I think reducing numbers in SL to prop up a failing system by splitting the money between a smaller number of clubs is a recipe for failure. It would be far better to keep the league at present numbers and reduce player expenses.




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