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The Parksider

The SKY contract for RL - good or bad?

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If players would move to Union wholesale John, why not RL clubs???

No reason. Leeds is already a dual code club.

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in addition, without the pulling power of SuperLeague as it is now, I don't think there would be semi pro RL in Gateshead, London, Hemel, Oxford, North and South Wales, Gloucester and soon Coventry.

The relentless march of rugby union, incl the higher salary cap in England, the lack of salary cap in France and no doubt other countries too would men the loss of our best SL talent our best semi-pro talent and after a number of years , our best emerging amateur talent. As the dominoes fall, so we'd lose unis. colleges and schools.

To be honest, I reckon we should had over the organisation and running of the game here to Australia..at least the don't seem to have this desire to drive the game back in time.

Are you saying that all the summer conference expansion, the development officers work, not funded by Sky, and the expansion into the armed forces, after great work by the RL Parliamentarians, the colleges, which pre date SL and Sky, and finally the CC1 expansion teams proposed and encouraged by the RFL are due to the drawing power of SL, the same drawing power which can't get 3,000 to watch its games at the Broncos. I don't think so.

The Australians don't need to retrench their game. They are the number one sport in their country and have just signed a billion dollar TV contract. If we had that in the UK, no one would be talking about a return to semi pro. I, for one, don't wish a return to semi pro but how do you propose to sustain the unsustainable SL without some reduction in salaries or even a return to semi pro. Just exactly where is the money coming from ?

If Salford go under and Cas and Hull KR and if Hughes and O'Connor refuse to put more money into London and Widnes and demand that they become self sustaining but they can't because the Sky money is not enough, just how do you propose that SL survives.?

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No reason. Leeds is already a dual code club.

Yes, indeed, and nobody watches the RU half. It wouls die without the Rhinos.

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who would die without the Sky money, leaving Leeds a single code club.

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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.

If the RFL had no cash, (ie sky money etc) no one would be doing anything in those areas. You might want to pretend they appeared by magic but they didn't - it is down to the growth of the game. You know, this dying game.

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Are you saying that all the summer conference expansion, the development officers work, not funded by Sky, and the expansion into the armed forces, after great work by the RL Parliamentarians, the colleges, which pre date SL and Sky, and finally the CC1 expansion teams proposed and encouraged by the RFL are due to the drawing power of SL,

Not just saying it. It is true. Without Sky there would have been nothing by now. Given that sport now a huge economic enterprise, providing a decent living for thousands and thousands of people, what might a young lad dream of. Well, clearly, playing for Man City would be top of the list. But what about those who look to the likes of Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, the NRL Burgesses? Ah!

Perchance to dream...One day I might be good enough to play for Jonny Wilkinson's Toulouse?..or Ossett Trinity?

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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.

My point exactly. We all know that even local union clubs pay silly money to their players and this will only increase considerably after their next world cup as the stated aim of the RFU is not to muck it up like they did last time.

Without the Sky money Rugby would be in a very sorry state today.

And in return I thank Parky for his opinion. :)

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Not just saying it. It is true. Without Sky there would have been nothing by now. Given that sport now a huge economic enterprise, providing a decent living for thousands and thousands of people, what might a young lad dream of. Well, clearly, playing for Man City would be top of the list. But what about those who look to the likes of Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, the NRL Burgesses? Ah!

Perchance to dream...One day I might be good enough to play for Jonny Wilkinson's Toulouse?..or Ossett Trinity?

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.

Salford have just been denied any money from Salford Council. They might be history. They did not have the money to be fully professional and have played the price. If the game had gone back to semi pro, they might have survived.

If there is not some serious consideration given to this full time professional idea and how it is going to be paid for, I fear for the future. The Sky money is not enough, good as it has been for the game, it has spawned unrealistic ambitions.

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who would die without the Sky money, leaving Leeds a single code club.

Who's to say it won't be Sky/TV money that facilitates that very thing happening at some point in the future?

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who would die without the Sky money, leaving Leeds a single code club.

Leaving them with a ground and no finances.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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

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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 RWC. 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).

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2005/feb/11/rugbyleague.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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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