The Parksider

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  1. How can "Politics" ever be left out in the real world? As you say the RFL have played their politics, and this was marked out when they handed crumbling London a Licence stating Harelequins were set to "Meet the challenges and grow" in 2011. They were set to let a busted Crusaders back. Do we really think men whose £Millions make these clubs "super" are going to really bother with criteria? If Adam Pearson says Neil Hudgells HKR must be in for the derbies who will argue especially as Hudgell is close to several other top chairmen. Will anyone dare tell these gentlemen to go back to two academies? Do we really think Ken Davey the grandfather of this cabal of rich owners is going to put up with being disrespected by being given a second class license, and told to up his game, grow his club or he's out? The only real criteria that matters is Leeds have Caddick, Saints have McManus, Widnes have O'Connor, Cas have Fulton, Wakey have Carter and Wire have Moran. The only criteria I have heard lately from SL chairmen is "Away fans" so North America and Les Catalans better start talking to the Championship clubs and the RFL about starting a development league. For Superleague Wigan, Leeds, Cas, Fartown, Wire, Hull, HKR, Saints are certainties. As for the others the latest reports go as follows. For Wakefield IIRC Carter said he will leave if they go to the Championship. The new ground announcement will massively help his position. For Widnes O'Connor/Betts called for Licensing - They didn't do that just to get kicked out. The most interesting one is Salford/Bradford. Koukash has twice bid for the Bulls, the RFL have ensured they remain available and if anyone saw the last dregs of the SKY game Thursday Carney was telling us of the strong rumours Koukash was making this his last season at Salford whilst the man himself was telling Sporting Life how he'd now got Salford finances sorted so they could be self sustainable as long as 4,500 fans turned up. Here he denies he owns the club. He says it's the fans club and he has only been the custodian. For me a big question mark is where may Leigh fit in, and again as per Koukash they aren't going to go to 14 clubs to fit anyone in, so of the 14 clubs likely to be seriously considered for a license two won't get one. Expect their downfall to be on votes not "criteria".
  2. At the time yes. As Dave Woods then wrote "We can no longer rely on the communities on which the game has been built to provide unswerving support for their local team" He then also wrote "With expansion comes greater interest from the a growing player pool" "Harlequins" and "Les Catalans" were the clubs to bring all these riches at the time and "Celtic Crusaders" were to follow. Expansion was a Lewis backed project, and fair play to him he was there to try to realise the games dreams of breaking out of the M62 and he was bang on right to try to force the M62 clubs to accept the challenge. (Note that even then Superleague Europe Ltd. decided what SL did, and still do). The SL clubs decided to give it a go. Lewis is long gone, but Dave Woods is not and the question is was he right? The answer seems that clearly he was wrong. The problem was that to get the growth he cited expansion clubs needed to find immense amounts of money year after year after year to get any sort of growth. Branson had pointed that out after he left London, and the collapse of Harlequin's proved him right. Richardson at Gateshead had a great first season in SL but ran out of money in just one year, Samuels got good growth in the welsh junior game but again he ran out of money, and of course Gaucsh at Catalans has pumped shedloads of money in but the French game itself remains small even after 10 years, with Catalans reliant on imports to compete. Now turn that upside down to Nigel's bottom up expansion which was the later alternative (low cost) approach. We see the tiniest of crowds, we see less amateur RL in the midlands and south, and M62 players bussed down there to enable these clubs to try to compete with Hunslet. The sad fact and conclusion is we have to "rely on the communities on which the game has been built to provide unswerving support for their local team". With respect to the Gentleman in the post above and others on the forum, people still talk about "growing" but we have "been there done that" using both approaches, and it did not work, leaving the only alternative to try to preserve what we have. I think we will see that, as licensing will be used to block "expansion" clubs in North America and France, If Catalans tumble in the play off we may see them not get a license, we may even see Koukash switch to Bradford with SL backing and Superleague give up on Manchester/Salford. This (sadly) makes business sense if the game is survival. As playing levels (zero in Canada, tiny in France) drop and attendances slide here, you will never ever get the sensible businessmen who run the game to try to do something radical yet again, that they can neither afford and as we have seen sadly doesn't work.
  3. I can't see how this has anything to do with "growth"? The player pool is not growing that's for sure, the attendances peaked some time back, Nigel Wood in his article says "less people are watching traditional TV" and the way to "grow" the TV contract appears to be to start to collapse, which secured an early record deal with SKY - but also a contraction to 12 clubs, with 10 considered. "Growth"? That deal didn't signal that "Growth" was the aim, it was keeping alive, and as for "expansion" SL bosses are clear that they want the TV contracts and the Quality player pool to expand, the geography isn't relevant to them and quite right too. Token overseas clubs who don't expand the TV contract, don't expand the quality player pool, and who therefore don't expand international RL may titillate us, as may the MPG and a couple of games leading to that, but it's not "growth" in the business sense. On 8th. January 2013 the Scottish daily record carried an article in which a Mr. Guggisberg of the Swiss FA set out how this system Blake Solly helped adopt damaged attendances and caused them a serious dip in commercial revenue after they adopted it. In short it was bad for business. Guggisberg warned the Scottish FA off this system. They listened. Naturally fans judge the game by "excitement" but hard nosed businessmen in what is a sporting industry judge the game by income. The irony is how we often condemn premiership soccer and RU bore fests, without actually looking at how many people actually turn up and how much they pay to be "bored". In concentrating on the pitch we miss that off the pitch this system gives over £16,000,000 to the Championships. The SL bosses don't miss that, and when your flagship competition is hand to mouth this hurts, and this alone is enough to condemn this system as "not working". Nigel Wood now appears to condemn it saying "We can't persist with a situation where some clubs are receiving over 50% of their income from the central resources". Nigel won't have to worry because all the signs are loud and clear from chairman after chairman and coach after coach representing their chairmen by proxy that Licensing will come back to shut the door, not on "growth", but the chipping away at the revenue and the security of Superleague, this being the one vital thing that secures the games "survival" in the Northern Hemisphere.
  4. Strike while the iron is hot

    If the Grand Final switch was made today, I wonder what the effect would be across the chairmen of Wigan, Leeds, Hull, Cas and Saints whose clubs are in contention, and their their tens of thousands of fans who are set to chase Red Hall for tickets to Old Trafford for a great night. Do we not realise that Superleague and it's competitions belong to Superleague and not the RFL, do we not consider the bad blood that would be created against north american expansion if this happened? I agree with your skepticism, however......... 5 years down the road isn't an option either, and this may be driven home to people if Superleague close the door on P & R with the licensing SL bosses are calling for. It should be obvious that Superleague will not only protect it's clubs, and it's players but also it's competitions and prestige games. They would never let the Grand Final be transferred to Canada. Your prediction of "five years down the road and half a dozen NA clubs thriving away" is fine by me, but how would they be thriving? If they were in Banking terms subsidising their businesses with massive personal investments, to cover running at a loss as most "thriving" footy clubs do, they still would hold no sway here. The way forward is clear if Canada want's a grand final. Each new NA club should follow the Toulouse route of bedding down in the Championship and developing home grown players and looking to attract TV monies over the coming seasons - these are the keys that are needed to help unlock the door. I don't know how Championship clubs will react to such an invasion, however they hold little sway, but there could be every chance that next season if we remove the eights and go back to licensing that a return of the Championship Grand Final could be Toulouse.v.Toronto. That would certainly be the game to take back to Canada although you may have an argument with the French about it!!
  5. Smith slags off the current format

    If you followed the recent events and joined them up you will remember Lenegan rejected the idea of Toronto in Superleague on the glib "no away fans" reasoning that a whole thread here condemned. Then after that the Superleague clubs met to discuss how to get HKR back into Superleague, which was through simply making a "13th place" for them in Superleague. Again the outcome was published using Koukash's worry of not enough good players available to add another club. Again discussed on here. So already the evidence is licensing is being brought back so that Superleague clubs can decide who is in Superleague, and this time not the RFL as Wood has lost control. Bad news if you are a Montreal fan, great news if your a Bradford fan. Smith's attempts to talk Rugby were blocked by the journo's wanting to talk licensing. His Boss, Moran, like O'Connor at Widnes, prefer their coaches to be the messenger boys. Smith didn't like this but he's paid good money. Last time Licensing was used to force expansion, Catalans got a 2006 licence before licencing, London and Wales were never anywhere near the criteria but automatic choices over such as Widnes. This time Licensing is set to keep the North Americans out so expect very little changes, and as for the criteria, these will be a joke. Cas won't be thrown out for a duff ground, or Salford for low crowds. Last time out of 13 applications only four clubs met the criteria. Let's hope they don't go through the sham. As for the Championship they are set to lose their big prize money funding (first two places were half a £Million apiece) because Lenegan has stated he wants that money back for Superleague. That funding totalled £14.5 Million. If that goes then Millionaire owned North American clubs will end up in the same league as clubs like Featherstone and Halifax who used to spend £300K on wages, leaving a disasterously unbalanced competition under SL. If that competition is to be balanced then the salary cap for the Championship which ended up being the same as SL after Beaumont rowed with Wood, will have to be re-introduced at a lower level. This will then mean that Superleague quality players will be protected from being poached. These are the significant aspects of the new licensing as controlled by SL and not the RFL.
  6. 1. Comparisons with Australia can't be drawn when the sporting landscapes are vastly different. In Australia the NRL is a major sport with high participation numbers. In the UK it is a small regional sport with small decreasing participation numbers, in France it is a smaller regional sport with even lower participation numbers and in Canada it is one manufactured club with no real participation in the sport. In all three countries Rugby League is literally swamped by other stronger sports 2. Yes I agree that NRL has it's detractors but stands as a flagship for the southern hemisphere game, attracting the biggest money and the best players. You appear to not understand that Superleague is exactly the same in the Northern Hempisphere. It attracts the biggest TV contract going and attracts the best players - augmented by about 70 Aussies which shows you the lack of playing resources, however to manage a flagship of 12 clubs is pretty good when the NRL can manage only 16 with much bigger playing resources and a much bigger sporting profile there. 3. You talk about the NRL being a strong and stable entity that enables growth, yet what is the record of the NRL on growth?? It has moved into Queensland and manages a club in NZ. Conversely Superleague moved into London, France and Wales so this has happened, but these ventures either folded or in the case of Catalans they limp along using mainly overseas players. The bottom line is that the 12 clubs we have have managed to keep the RL flag flying against tremendous opposition the level of which NRL doesn't face. You say "The prospect of a North Atlantic league featuring best of the UK, NA, and France must surely have so much more potential". Given that Catalans in ten years have struggled to increase participation in France if it has increased at all (much like NZ Warriors?), and given that there is next to no participation in North America, where the only way to get a team is to raid the English game for their players, where does this potential for growth in the participation numbers come from? Dreaming of what could be if only we were brave enough is OK, but in the real world where simply surviving is the key, Northern Hemisphere RL IS two parts of Yorkshire and one part of Lancashire, and you can't spread that on a "Transatlantic" basis any more than the NRL can be "Pan Pacific".
  7. Nigel wood on radio Yorkshire @6

    Thanks for the great post on the way the commercial opportunities may arise as the game goes multi-national! As to whether the RFL have the remit to seek and organise those opportunities here is their mission statement:- The objects of the Rugby Football League as set out in Constitution are: (a) to foster, govern, develop, organise and manage the Game, in respect of all age groups, at all levels and for both sexes, in Great Britain and Ireland; The only remit they have beyond this is International RL in terms of Country.v.Country. The definition of Catalans as a club outside of Great Britain and Ireland is "guests" which gave them no voting rights in the new SKY contract. Therefore this is to Lenegan's advantage, the RFL cannot organise a transatlantic Superleague let alone be the body to seek the commercial rights for it. It's a nice dream to put those pins in maps, and predict a clear out of the useless SL clubs, but these clubs are the ones with the votes, and these clubs are Lenegan's power base. It may also be noted that the RFL clearly have a remit to look after the "British and Irish" Championship clubs. Even stockpiling overseas clubs into the Championship could see a backlash from the Featherstone's and Halifax's of this world. For me it's a lazy argument to just assume six overseas clubs will take over the Championship and then be be planted in SL "just like that", there has to be a more realistic plan for how North America can harness the fledgling renewal of interest in the game over there. Nigel Wood on behalf of the RFL has neither the remit nor power to do anything much himself. It's for another thread to discuss what this could be?
  8. Nigel wood on radio Yorkshire @6

    Wood also said that the key to success for North America (and as you indicate France) is “unlocking the broadcast and commercial markets in that part of the world”. That is very much true, however Wood has nothing to sell the broadcasters. The only competition of substance is owned by 11 English Superleague Chairmen (Catalans are guests), and by Wood’s own admission it’s the Superleague clubs who will make the decisions on Superleague. You cannot sell a professional RL competition to a broadcaster that does not exist. Your brave stab at, and equally brave new league/world of seven English clubs, Two French clubs and three North American clubs is fine on paper, but in reality how do you get seven out of eleven English clubs to break ranks, and why do you assume those seven will be the top seven clubs, clearly Wigan won’t be one of them, and why should Lenegan loyalists like the Hull clubs break ranks? Be careful about who may actually be excluded here? People assume it will be the small SL clubs. Could the seven added to the five you quote be a league that could attract a much bigger single contract or multi-contract than SKY pay? What price will Canadian TV pay for a league with only 2 Canadian clubs? What price will French TV pay again for only two home clubs? What can just New York in that league attract from USA sports TV? Will there even be any interest even from SKY anymore if there is no Wigan or no Hull clubs and their British audience do not want to watch manufactured overseas teams? Whilst a transatlantic League may sound impressive the devil is always in the detail of how do you actually get there, how do you even get it going let alone unlock it’s potential and grow it?. How do you even get Lenegan aligned clubs to come along? It’s a gross assumption that they will automatically take the highest bidder. The clubs showed tremendous loyalty to SKY rejecting the idea that if BT came in with more they would just throw that 20 year partnership away? What’s to stop a richer North American broadcaster giving it a go for three years and then not bother renewing? Why should SKY then come back? That will then be that for the whole Northern Hemisphere game.
  9. Nigel wood on radio Yorkshire @6

    No announcement yet whilst Draper works on this, however enough SL chairmen, either directly or through their coaches, have publicly indicated in the RL press a return to Licensing. We already have a form of P & R and it infuriated chairmen when it dropped HKR out of Superleague, they wanted to License HKR straight back and said they may go to 13 SL places to get this. In Lockwoods Editorial response to Wood’s article where Wood concedes the decision on what Superleague will want as a system to Superleague and their man Draper, he calls Ian Lenegan a “separatist”. Licensing is just that. Lockwood also warns that a review of the “divvying up of the SKY money” could lead to Championship clubs conceding a lot of SKY funds back to Superleague. In the article Wood himself now concedes this point to Lenegan “We can’t persist with a situation where some championship clubs are receiving over 50% of their income from central resources” There’s another nail in the coffin for this system. I don’t know where you place the “Hallowed Hall” Gary but it certainly is not Red Hall. Does Mr. Lenegan live in a Hall? Of your two realistic choices P & R opens up the danger that another favoured club and more like HKR could be lost to Superleague, and with cashed up North Americans joining the Championship they are set to be the replacements. Lenegan dealt with clubs thinking about selling out to North America in that last “what’s in Lenegan’s pocket” SL meeting. Super league is not for sale. All the signs (and there are so many) say that Superleague will be shutting up shop, and there will be no automatic on the field entry to Superleague, especially to clubs with "No away fans" This will be a seizmic decision in which when you think about it, to get there, the qualifiers will have to be scrapped next year to get to a Licensed SL in 2019. The old Championship play offs survived as they were not just an MPG but the final of the competition. Could Roger Draper bring down the curtain on the MPG after this season finishes and replace it with a full Championship play off for the winners title only for the end of 2018?. That looks most likely to be the transition you speak of.
  10. Nigel wood on radio Yorkshire @6

    The concept of the "Whole match day experience" was introduced in Keighley in the 1990's through "Cougarmania" when crowds soared down the lane, and copied at Odsal where under "Bullmania" again crowds soared. How much this was down to the "matchday experience", and how much of this was the fact both clubs were at the top of their respective leagues you can choose Gary. Years on both are now third division sides, having run up massive debts. I doubt side-shows will get them out of that? On Wood's interview the big question to him was "If we are to switch again from the 12's and the 8's who would lead and decide that"?? Wood warbled and wobbled with "It's a bit complex" but conceded that "Anything that is internal to Superleague, the Superleague clubs and Superleague board could determine". Add to that his concession that "Super League Executive Director Roger Draper is the one looking at this in detail and talking to the clubs" and you can see that it's Ian Lenegan's man that is driving matters now as opposed to Wood and Wood's ex-henchman Solly. Wood confirmed next year goes ahead as planned as it's the third year of the original "give it three years then review" plan. However the shape of things to come 2019 is clearly very much in Lenegans hands, and we have plenty of signals from SL chairmen, the most recent one from O'Connor through Betts which way he and his fellow chairmen would like to go...... .......The big question then being will the MPG match guarantee to have any meaning next season? This was not asked.
  11. Michael Carter - Trinity and the RFL

    None of this is at all true if your referring to the new SKY deal. Carter voted for on the first and second votes and received a much needed £300K up front. Lenegan was for a deal but against the new league structure it came tied up with. Six clubs wanted their own P & R structure. The new deal was necessary because the SL was £68M in debt and faced collapse. Lenegan voted against first time, but once he realised he'd lost he voted for so that there was some unity across the clubs going into the deal (Sadler said they "did not want to upset the applecart at the start of a new season") . He then wrote a scathing open article about the whole thing. Both these gentlemen are far from foolish and both are tremendous assets to the game. The full truth was published in League Express in a series of Articles January 2014. You should read them.
  12. Twp tonight

    This is bang on Les, great post “Perez anticipates four or five transatlantic clubs to be competing in the Rugby Football League in the not too distant future. With the USA and Canada set to host the Rugby League World Cup in 2025, expanding the game across the Atlantic is crucial and Toronto are hoping to set a precedent for more North American franchises to follow”. Mr. Argyle is a hard headed businessman, not the saviour of the English Superleague. If he "opens new markets" in North America he will want them for himself. As reported very early on he seeks to make the game in North America “bigger than the NRL”. To get there it will be necessary to sign up as many British RL players to as many North American Franchises as possible. Closing M62 SL clubs will free those players. How naive is it Les to believe that the RFL can broker a partnership between Lenegan and Argyle to share Superleague? The RFL are mischief makers allowing Toronto in. Lenegan has already dismissed them because they have "no away fans", however I am sure he shares the concern of Gary O that sacking off English clubs for North American clubs until we have a 6/6 Transatlantic league will destroy swathes of traditional RL territory across the north where they lose their pro-players, they lose their funding, they lose their fans, they lose their wealthy backers and RL goes into decline in their areas. As Man of Kent says the only SL club in West Yorkshire left standing could be Leeds. Would Leeds thrive in this way? Would West Yorkshire fans of RL switch to Leeds or just feel sold out and walk out? Would other English fans put up with this? Let’s get real here, it’s not in any way the “Family of Rugby League” of North America and England getting together for mutual benefit. It’s mining style hard nosed business with Argyle looking to outdo his native countries NRL. It’s hard to think when that allegedly massive North American TV contract materialises they are going to share it with us like Jolly old pals. A professional North American NRL will no more want the cost and inconvenience of coming over here every week than our clubs want to go over there now. A North American audience will no more want to see M62 clubs on TV than M62 fans will want to see Montreal.v.Philidelphia. It’s a Trojan horse, and It’s been suggested on here the idea that if RL can become big in North America losing the English game is a “price worth paying”. That’s what we should be discussing Les as you say mate. Where I disagree with you is that we will not be able to carry on as the damage will be too great when they inevitably (If the alleged massive contract comes in) walk away.
  13. There Are Enough Players

    By 2014 a 14 team SL was so short of quality players London, Bradford and Wakefield pretty much collapsed. The SL chairmen sat down and reviewed this and were unanimous two clubs had to be culled. On a reduction to 12 clubs the league became more balanced but not really better quality. It has to be said that a cull of 4 clubs to 10 was seriously considered, with Leeds captain Jamie Peacock supporting 10 clubs as the way to a quality competition, that is how bad it is. Then recently SL chairmen were so desperate to get Hull.K.R. back in someone suggested go to a 13 club SL. Dr. Koukash went to the media to explain that this would not happen posing the question where would the quality players come from?. I appreciate your positive view here but all the evidence is from the chairmen who all have expert senior coaching teams to advise them that there simply is not the quality of player. This is why Superleague as Lenegan has said, can't afford Toulouse or Toronto to be coming into Superleague and just digging into the same small player pool without giving something back. As it stands now with Gigot out Catalans have only two French players in their 1-13 first choice shirts and this is after 11 years in Supereleague. That's not good and neither is it good for other overseas clubs to just import all their players to the detriment of Superleague, if you look back at Argyles early plans for Toronto in the Telegraph, he was aiming to fill his side with NRL players in the second year. Superleague just don't want another Catalans, hence Toulouse were turned down on the player issue, as well as the TV contract issue. Sadly "expansion" could go backwards this year if Catalans lose more games and no doubt their overseas players could end up at Toronto, thus TWP would merely inherit what SL don't like about Catalans. You may argue that a couple of SL clubs don't "develop players" but this is wrong. They all promote junior RL through their foundations, it's a rule of SL entry, but they don't run academies because there aren't the quality of youngsters about and they end up putting hundreds of kids through for the odd success. Believe the coaches who say so, the player pool is thin. On Friday poor Jordan Lilley was taken off early for Leeds at Cas as he just could not cope. It was sad to see.
  14. Betts wants licensing back

    Indeed. The "boring" politics of the game are rooted in the first deal when the RFL set up SL with SKY and the incumbent clubs set up "Superleague (Europe) Ltd". For those interested in sporting politics this power struggle came to head in January 2014 when Superleague was a cool £68Million in debt and the way out was a revision of the SKY contract which wholly underpins Superleague. Martyn Sadlers two definitive articles on the "battle" over the deal lost by Lenegan’s SLE faction, gave a fascinating insight into these matters, that led to further widely reported and a matter of record skirmishes over who runs Superleague. Mr. Lenegan is pretty much in the driving seat now. It's a lot easier for people to discuss the matters sensibly if they have followed the politics down the years and especially if they had bought the League Express or looked on line and read Mr. Sadlers and his other journo's articles like Aaron Bower's. As for "arm twisting" Mr. Sadler lead his second article with his opinion that some clubs “didn’t need much persuading particularly when told they would each receive £300K into their banks within a couple of weeks” and as a result Mr. Sadler published a supporting open letter from Mr. Lenegan outlining his “grave reservations about the process whereby the contract was negotiated”. The record has always been there.
  15. Twp tonight

    That’s an excellent realistic shout. TWP can’t be added to SL on the vague idea of “Opening up new markets”. Out of “Crowds, Sponsors and Canadian TV” they have these now, but of course they need to get a big paying TV contract SL can share, and develop North American players to pay their way. As rich as they may be Super league places rightly just can’t be bought as we saw recently when Leigh and Widnes did not/were not allowed to sell out. If Toronto are the start of a revolution in RL then it’s logical that the Championship will be used to develop an “overseas arm”. The big matches next year will be the first transatlantic Pro-RL league fixtures of Toronto.v.Toulouse, and Toronto.v.London I can’t see how a token Canadian club would be any more value to SL than a token French club has been, precedents abound in Rugby League and after eleven years Catalans provide no paying TV contract, no “away fans”, no quality international side and rely heavily on imports. So for success Montreal, and New York need to follow and also need to join this “proving ground” of the championship for a few seasons. Even Perez dropped his initial immediate entry to SL target to “five years”.. Whilst initially “Fev and Fax” will offer great opposition, I’d suggest that once Montreal and New York come along these traditional English championship clubs along with Dewsbury, Bradford, Batley etc. will be heavily raided for their best players. This is the downside and this is where more friction than ever will come along. Superleague will protect themselves, but the English Championship clubs will be wide open to be decimated yet again. What will their fans and the game think then?