A good post but I have to take issue with it. In the USA you have towns with 4 pro teams (US football, baseball, basketball & ice hockey) all of whom co-exist quite happily. And do a straw poll of UK football fans and you'll find that very many of them also follow a rugby team of either code or an ice hockey team or whatever. The idea that rugby league needs to give up on the big cities and accept its current lot in smaller traditional areas certainly isn't one that I subscribe to. RL needs to get into these places and give football a run for its money. After all, it's a much better game....
....which brings me to point number 2. Pretty much everyone on this forum constantly raves about RL as "the greatest sport" etc. but then rails against expansion of any kind, whether it be in London or newer areas. It's the biggest hypocrisy of them all. Rave evangelically about RL along the M62 by all means but as soon as Cockneys or the French want a piece of the game then "Hands off! It's ours - we were here first!" It's a laughable state of affairs and really justifies the media's cold shoulder of the sport. Why should they give the GF more than a token bit of sports bulletin tail-end coverage when we seal ourselves off so happily and timidly? We want Kevin Sinfield and Sam Tomkins to get more props on SPOTY but we also want Featherstone to be given a Super League berth. We simply can't have it both ways.
Teams averaging 7K is not getting it done for a healthy, powerful and nationally important Super League. Hudgell and others have talked about 10K needed to pay full cap self-sufficiently and this should be the bare minimum target. Yes I welcome investment into Hull KR not just because it's my team but because it's a good strong club with a solid bedrock of support who can do well in and for SL in the current climate. But as RL fans we need to be thinking bigger. I will always be convinced that if the sport takes bold decisions we can see regular 20K crowds in domestic RL competition because I know what a wonderful game RL is and I also see how NRL dominates the Aussie domestic sport climate against similar competition from soccer and other sports. They chose RL because they thought it was better and then made it massive. We cornered ourselves (admittedly not through choice) and now just whimper timidly from the margins. It simply won't do.
It s interesting that you should reference the US sporting scene because there is a parallel model in that country which could possibly be a template for RL in the UK. That is US soccer. They have started at the grassroots and colleges and have built up a huge and enthusiastic junior and amateur base. They then founded pro teams but kept them at a realistic level, stadia in the 20,000 range are being built specifically for soccer and they are targeting many smaller cities with no NFL, baseball etc as well as the big ones, places like Columbus, Salt Lake City, San Jose and the Mexican population of Los Angeles and it seems to be working, Soccer is growing at a fast clip in the US, almost under the radar of the other behemoth sports you have mentioned.
I am not as you stated giving up on the big cities. What I am saying is that we should structure RL so that we can function and prosper on crowds of 7,000 and up and in smaller places as US soccer has done and as we are currently already positioned. Big crowds like the 75,000 that attend Man U every home game are just not possible, however desirable. If we start small and grow at whatever pace is possible we might end up with some mega clubs but that's not an option at the moment. Soccer has such an advantage in cash, TV exposure, crowds and public acceptance that I am not sure we could ever grow to rival that game.
I am not anti expansion. I welcome it. It's a shame Crusaders went bust and Gateshead and Sheffield were shafted to save other clubs and I think the new CC1 expansion is great. I hope it suceeds. The problem I have with expansion is that it is always assumed that to have expansion into SL, not so much into CC1, an existing heartlands club has to be sacrificed. I think that is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Ways should be developed to expand the size of SL by expansion without losing an existing club whether its conferences or SL and SL2 and either getting more cash from Sky and whomever else ( French TV, BBC, ESPN) or dilluting the present money to split it more ways.
I do not agree with you that we cannot spotlight our stars and have Fev in SL at the same time. I think small clubs like Fev. Cas and Widnes appeal to the casual viewer as the little engine that could, the David v Goliath syndrome and are a TV draw in their own right.
Averaging 7,000 might not suit you, but the reality is we have, in the history of our game, NEVER had a team average 20,000. It would take a massive growth of the sport to ever achieve that, desirable as it might be. If we structure the game so that it is economically feasible on gates of 7,000 and up, then we have a far greater chance of meaningful progress and expansion instead of waiting for the 20,000 ship to dock.
A comparison with NRL is difficult because they have been one of the dominant winter sports in Australia since 1908. There is no significant soccer competition. Have you ever checked out the empty stands when Aussie soccer is on TV.
Your post is an valid alternative view but I think it a tad too optomistic even for me and I am definitely cock eyed in that regard.