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(Renamed thread) What RL can learn from the union 6 Nations

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Come on Wellsy, that sounds like babysitting the fans. 4 months is plenty of time to decide whether you can go or not. What are the RFL to do? Ring us all up individually a year in advance?

You make some fair points but come on...the fans need to back the events.

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The questions on this thread could also apply to other aspects of the game, eg why don't fans attend Challenge Cup games in decent numbers anymore ? IMO much of it is that many fans now see SL as the pinnacle and while this is obviously good for SL it does have a detrimental effect in other areas. The hype around SL, led by Sky, fosters a belief that everything else is somehow inferior and irrelevant. So the success in growing SL has been paid for by a drop off in attendances at Challenge Cup rounds, Play Offs rounds and also Internationals. Then there is the flawed belief that all people who go to watch SL are fans of the game in general - for example I worked in Leeds for a while last year and several people there went to watch Leeds Rhinos regularly but they had absolutely no interest in the wider game or even other SL clubs.

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But Derwent at least the CC and some lower clubs have had the good crowds in the past, Internationals have never, the odd blip excepted, had this.

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The questions on this thread could also apply to other aspects of the game, eg why don't fans attend Challenge Cup games in decent numbers anymore ? IMO much of it is that many fans now see SL as the pinnacle and while this is obviously good for SL it does have a detrimental effect in other areas. The hype around SL, led by Sky, fosters a belief that everything else is somehow inferior and irrelevant. So the success in growing SL has been paid for by a drop off in attendances at Challenge Cup rounds, Play Offs rounds and also Internationals. Then there is the flawed belief that all people who go to watch SL are fans of the game in general - for example I worked in Leeds for a while last year and several people there went to watch Leeds Rhinos regularly but they had absolutely no interest in the wider game or even other SL clubs.

Yet more factless assertion that boils down to Super League being the big bad wolf.

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But Derwent at least the CC and some lower clubs have had the good crowds in the past, Internationals have never, the odd blip excepted, had this.

I don't know what the answer is, I suspect it is a combination of lots of things. For example, in the days of full tours people didn't need to go to internationals to see the Aussies and Kiwis as they could watch them against their own club at their own ground.

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Yet more factless assertion that boils down to Super League being the big bad wolf.

Where have I 'blamed' SL ? It is 100% factual that while SL crowds grew they declined in all other facets of the game in this country. If you believe there is no correlation there then that's your prerogative. It's not a blame game so why try to turn it into one ?

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4 months in advance is hardly "much more" than 3. It's not enough. The RFL produce event brochuresfor the new season before Xmas. Why aren't these including internationals? Are they not as important?

I say the same about the WCC as well.

the brochures usually do include internationals don't they.

I thought it was longer than 4m for Wembley, but you're right it should be longer than that.

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Where have I 'blamed' SL ? It is 100% factual that while SL crowds grew they declined in all other facets of the game in this country. If you believe there is no correlation there then that's your prerogative. It's not a blame game so why try to turn it into one ?

You have to come up with something to even suggest that they are related other than assertion and bias.

It's just more post hoc reasoning, there are many other plausible reasons for the decline that you ignore because you want to.

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Come on Wellsy, that sounds like babysitting the fans. 4 months is plenty of time to decide whether you can go or not. What are the RFL to do? Ring us all up individually a year in advance?

You make some fair points but come on...the fans need to back the events.

Why do the fans NEED to back events? Why should they? What obligation do they have to the events? What's in it for them?

The events NEED fans. Not the other way around.

If the RFL want people to be attracted to their England brand, they've got to give them reasons other than "it's a rugby game and you're from that country". It's not babysitting. It's intelligent event and brand management.

Again, we can sit here and say "the fans should be doing this..." but it achieves NOTHING. It's not a solution, it's an empty statement. Things need to be done, and it's up to the organisers to do it and the fans to respond.

As for historic attendances, it just shows that there have often been problems. We don't have a proper international board being one, unlike other sports with credible international scenes.

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You have to come up with something to even suggest that they are related other than assertion and bias.

It's just more post hoc reasoning, there are many other plausible reasons for the decline that you ignore because you want to.

There are probably a whole multitude of reasons, I'm only putting forward one of them.

If you want evidence, albeit anecdotal, then search this board for the threads that appear after every low challenge cup or play offs attendance. Time and again the reason is given that those games are not part of people's SL season tickets so they don't go. That suggests to me that people are unwilling to pay to watch them and that is the crux of the matter. Why are they happy to pay to watch RL in one guise but not in another ? Why does Leeds v Wigan get a big crowd in SL but a poor one in the cup ? It's because people's priorities have changed and SL is now 'the game' to many people including those at Sky.

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There are probably a whole multitude of reasons, I'm only putting forward one of them.

If you want evidence, albeit anecdotal, then search this board for the threads that appear after every low challenge cup or play offs attendance. Time and again the reason is given that those games are not part of people's SL season tickets so they don't go. That suggests to me that people are unwilling to pay to watch them and that is the crux of the matter. Why are they happy to pay to watch RL in one guise but not in another ? Why does Leeds v Wigan get a big crowd in SL but a poor one in the cup ? It's because people's priorities have changed and SL is now 'the game' to many people including those at Sky.

Or that the Challenge Cup is becoming stale and needs repackaging or needs a serious facelift?

The only thing in RL that is pushed at the moment is the SL. Everything else is a sideshow. That isn't because of the SL. It's because the RFL aren't trying to push anything else. It doesn't have to be one or the other. The issues aren't being owned up to and addressed within the sport. They're just being ignored and spun.

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Or that the Challenge Cup is becoming stale and needs repackaging or needs a serious facelift?

The only thing in RL that is pushed at the moment is the SL. Everything else is a sideshow. That isn't because of the SL. It's because the RFL aren't trying to push anything else. It doesn't have to be one or the other. The issues aren't being owned up to and addressed within the sport. They're just being ignored and spun.

I agree entirely, and despite MD's suggestion that I was blaming SL, I do not think it is the fault of SL. As you say, SL is the only thing that gets pushed and especially so with Sky, which you'd expect. In many respects "Super League" has overtaken "Rugby League" - watch any of the Sky output including BnA and Backchat and you will rarely here the phrase Rugby League used these days. To many people, SL has become the de facto name of the sport - they are going to watch Super League not Rugby League.

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I agree entirely, and despite MD's suggestion that I was blaming SL, I do not think it is the fault of SL. As you say, SL is the only thing that gets pushed and especially so with Sky, which you'd expect. In many respects "Super League" has overtaken "Rugby League" - watch any of the Sky output including BnA and Backchat and you will rarely here the phrase Rugby League used these days. To many people, SL has become the de facto name of the sport - they are going to watch Super League not Rugby League.

Not to mention Soccer AM calling it the Super League World Cup! Urgh!

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Its not pointless Wellsy, apathy in RL is a major issue. Call it what you want its still apathy.

Its not comparable with me because I believe in supporting the things I believe in and not asking why I should do so. I do this because its how I am. If I'm out of step with the rest of RL then so be it.

It still doesn't explain the historical attendances though does it?

Some sports are very forturnate that they have long standing local and international scenes such as rugby union,cricket and football some sports arent quite so fortunate like rugby league.Honestly if you stopped trying to kill off Rugby league in lancs,yorks and cumbria you might find you have a pretty strong sport

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If this weekend proves nothing else is that God saved the Sick Nations weather til now; God hates RL.

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You make good points but remember that Italy defeated the reigning 5N grand slam champions in their first game (by quite a margin too). It would be the equivalent of France or PNG beating a full-strength Aussie team. The RL minnows are much, much further behind the pace than their RU equivalent.

No it wouldn't. It would be the equivelant of PNG or France beating England, which isn't unbelievable.

There isn't a team in European rugby union that are the quality of the Kangaroos. The All Blacks are the only equivelant of the Kangaroos and Italy aren't going to beat them any time soon, no matter how many penalty kicks they take. Most other teams aren't going to beat them either.

The difference is in the game itself. Rugby union minnows look better than they are because the game is penalty based and rubbish teams can keep an honest score line by kicking goals all game. About half the points scored in international rugby union are from penalty kicks. If penalty kicks were as rewarding in rugby league then minnows over night would be keeping score lines closer.

The gulf in class between say England and PNG in league is relatively smaller, I'd say, than if you were to compare a team like Scotland or Georgia to France/Wales

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No it wouldn't. It would be the equivelant of PNG or France beating England, which isn't unbelievable.

There isn't a team in European rugby union that are the quality of the Kangaroos. The All Blacks are the only equivelant of the Kangaroos and Italy aren't going to beat them any time soon, no matter how many penalty kicks they take. Most other teams aren't going to beat them either.

The difference is in the game itself. Rugby union minnows look better than they are because the game is penalty based and rubbish teams can keep an honest score line by kicking goals all game. About half the points scored in international rugby union are from penalty kicks. If penalty kicks were as rewarding in rugby league then minnows over night would be keeping score lines closer.

The gulf in class between say England and PNG in league is relatively smaller, I'd say, than if you were to compare a team like Scotland or Georgia to France/Wales

It's true that the games are closer but it's not true that this is the sole reason for the difference in competitiveness. There are huge differences in player numbers, in many RL instances the countries players numbering in the hundreds. Like I pointed out, Italy have 70,000 people playing the game.

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This thread has seen a lot of criticism of the British RL fan, especially with regards to attending matches and the idea that we are disloyal, abandoning the team just because we aren't winning and not making the effort when we are playing lesser teams. Even though I disagree with this point, it's not completely implausible to conclude that the followers of a sport in one country (especially one so geographically limited) could have attitudes in common and could be fairweather. We do after all, see clubs that have more loyal followers than others.

However, you're really stretching it when it comes to the game of Rugby League across the world. It's a far stretch to infer that Australian Rugby League fans also have these attitudes as you are then suggesting that there is something about RL that causes these attitudes. Seeing as though British RL has been given stick I thought I'd look at the how things have gone in Australia in comparison over the last decades. I decided to focus purely on the Ashes series as they are usually what is commented on with regards to the rise and decline of British RL and because they are so regular. I have lined up the comparitive British and Australian series side by side for comparison. I have put British series wins in bold.

UK 1948/9 - 109k Australia 1950 - 129k

UK 1952/3 - 97k Australia 1954 - 178k

UK 1956/7 - 62k Australia 1958 - 171k

UK 1959/60 - 91k Australia 1962 - 148k

UK 1963/4 - 64k Australia 1966 - 165k

UK 1967/8 - 53k Australia 1970 - 163k

UK 1973/4 - 36k Australia 1974 - 133k

UK 1978/9 - 63k Australia 1979 - 66k

UK 1982 - 67k Australia 1984 - 74k

UK 1986 - 101k Australia 1988 - 66k

UK 1990 - 132k Australia 1992 - 103k

UK 1994 - 140k No equivalent Australian

UK 1997 - 121k No equivalent Australian

UK 2001 - 69k No equivalent Australian

UK 2003 - 73k No equivalent Australian

I think these stats makes very interesting reading. It's clear that for a long time, the Ashes were huge in Australia and really dwarfed the crowds in England. I don't think it's any coincidence that this is while the series were genuinely competitive. It's also interesting to notice how much they collapsed in the 6 years between '74 and '79, a drop of half and nearly a drop of two-thirds from the British win in 1970. That 1979 series is notable because it's the first time that GB were really uncompetitive, losing on aggregate 87-18 and losing the first game 35-0. I can't find the results but I suspect that we likely struggled in the warm up games.

During the 80's Aussie crowds stayed low as GB were far from competitive and didn't win a game for a decade but ironicallly this seemed to kick-start in the UK to the point where our crowds dwarfed theirs. I think it's very telling that Australian crowds started to recover as GB were genuinely competitive in 1992. I think this backs up the idea that RL fans wherever they are from are interested in genuinely competitive games, not one-sided events and this is true even if they are the side dishing out the beating. Australian fans could be called disloyal but the sad reality is that GB were no longer an attraction for them.

I think this has happened in the UK but the opposite way around. Australia are still an attraction because of the dream of beating them one day but this has taken a hit over the years and the continual defeats, often heavy, has become far less appealing to the average RL fan and to the wider public.

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It's true that the games are closer but it's not true that this is the sole reason for the difference in competitiveness. There are huge differences in player numbers, in many RL instances the countries players numbering in the hundreds. Like I pointed out, Italy have 70,000 people playing the game.

That would be 70,000 registered union players in Italy? Assuming Italian union even keeps decent records I'd hazard a guess there are nowhere near that many oxymoronic "active" union players there. That is if it's true that a great many registered union club players turn out a few times a year for the likes of the Old Blowhardians 9th XV just so they can go on the end of year tour/beano?

Union does have a natural advantage in it's ability to draw on it's club network to get bums on seats but it's possibly overdone that that advantage extends to developing elite players.

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here here

And if they were, so what? The fact of the matter is that playing standards have improved and interest in the game has increased in Italy since they came into the 6 Nations, even though they spent the better part of a decade as the whipping boys. That needs patience, and RL doesn't seem to have it when it comes to the international game.

Patience is easier for governing bodies when they have a decent amount of money in the international game.

Italy were invited into what became the Six Nations after years of one off games and improvement against the other leading RU sides. In their early years in the Six Nations they lost key players who were central to their improvement and the standard of their play declined. They have rebuilt though and they have benefited from using foreigners who play in Italy and from selecting Argentinian born players of Italian origin; that source of players may dry up as Argentina now play in the southern hemisphere championship....

So, perhaps the French RL need to develop further the approach of selecting the odd foreign origin player and any antipodean with a French grandparent. :)

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Patience is easier for governing bodies when they have a decent amount of money in the international game.

Italy were invited into what became the Six Nations after years of one off games and improvement against the other leading RU sides. In their early years in the Six Nations they lost key players who were central to their improvement and the standard of their play declined. They have rebuilt though and they have benefited from using foreigners who play in Italy and from selecting Argentinian born players of Italian origin; that source of players may dry up as Argentina now play in the southern hemisphere championship....

So, perhaps the French RL need to develop further the approach of selecting the odd foreign origin player and any antipodean with a French grandparent. :)

cracking analysis

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Patience is easier for governing bodies when they have a decent amount of money in the international game.

Italy were invited into what became the Six Nations after years of one off games and improvement against the other leading RU sides. In their early years in the Six Nations they lost key players who were central to their improvement and the standard of their play declined. They have rebuilt though and they have benefited from using foreigners who play in Italy and from selecting Argentinian born players of Italian origin; that source of players may dry up as Argentina now play in the southern hemisphere championship....

So, perhaps the French RL need to develop further the approach of selecting the odd foreign origin player and any antipodean with a French grandparent. :)

Very good sir.......

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It's true that the games are closer but it's not true that this is the sole reason for the difference in competitiveness. There are huge differences in player numbers, in many RL instances the countries players numbering in the hundreds. Like I pointed out, Italy have 70,000 people playing the game.

You can't deny rugby union has a collosal grass roots advantage over league internationally but I don't see it as all that important. What are playing numbers? Playing numbers help but they're no substitute for professionalism and experience.

The USA has, supposedly, almost 500,000 registered rugby union players. Yet the USA aren't half as close in class to the best international rugby teams. The USA might play a team like France or Wales and keep the scoreline more similar, relative to scorelines we see in league, but it doesn't mean that they're closer in class to France or Wales than Samoa or PNG in league are closer to NZ or England.

If you looked at scorelines you'd probably think so but it's just not true. So it's a mix of both. International rugby is more competetive, especially in the breadth of competitiveness, but it's nowhere near the difference when compared with league that some would think.

Just to go back and reiteriate my point about playing numbers. Georgia, a country going from strength to strength internationally, have only 6,000 registered players. They're rising in competitiveness and class not because of a great grass roots system or a good professional competition on Georgian soil, the reason they're getting good and fast is because their players are playing in France, in the Top 14, Pro D2 and the like.

Examples like that, and contrasted with the USA, make me think that the quickest and most fool-proof way to improve the competitiveness of international league would be to create a system that would encourage, or force, teams in Britain, Australia and New Zealand to have a certain number of foreign (or less preferrably international eligible players) signed to the club.

Grass roots participation is good for building the profile and popularity of a sport in a foreign land, but i reckon it's not all that effective if the goal is to have a legit and wider international competition. I say we should cheat someone if we want other countries to be competitive and import their best prospects, bring them through our systems. Unless these guys are brought through a professional system and given that professional experience, it doesn't matter how many are playing the game, they're going to be ###### (ala USA in rugby)

I don't know if it could work but if there was an obligation and incentive for teams to pick up and nurture players from other countries we'd see a stronger international competition so much faster. Might also bring about a conflict of interest. How would English players and the English team fair if more foreign born players were introduced into British league?

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For what it's worth, here is what I would like to see happen to develop the international game in Europe.

At present, there are 16 European sides in the official RLIF rankings. From this, I would split them into 2 tournaments of 8 teams (top eight, bottom eight) who would take part in two annual knock-out tournaments. The winners of the 2nd tier would automatically be promoted to the 1st tier in place of the team who come last in that competition.

Basic format would be that the tournament is held over 3 weeks, with 4 fixtures taking place at a time, preferably all at the same venue. Week 1 - Cup 1/4 finals, Week 2 - Cup Semi-finals, 5th-8th Semi Finals, Week 3 - Final, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th, 7th/8th. Every fixture means something, and even if a team take a kicking in the first game, by the final game they should be playing someone they can compete with.

Have it in Britain one year, then on the continent the following year, and not worry too much if attendances don't go through the roof straight off the bat - treat it as a way of helping national sides to develop rather than growing interest in the game.

Obviously, the elephant in the room are England, who would most likely stroll through if they brought a full-strength side. The simple solution would be to place certain restrictions upon England for X number of years, or until certain targets are met. It could be something like no players over the age of 23 at first, or no-one who has earned over a certain amount of caps. Once England winning the thing is no longer a foregone conclusion, or after a set time-period, relax the restrictions a bit, and then a bit more and so on, until they have to field their strongest side to be confident of doing well.

And then, and this is the kicker, rather than moaning that it's a farce because of the fact that England have to be restricted, celebrate the fact that some players who might otherwise not get the chance to show what they can do for their country are getting a chance, and talk about how great it is that all these countries who aren't getting enough competitive, meaningful games at the moment are now getting the opportunity to develop, and look forward to the day when a country like Serbia, for example, might be competitive against a full-strength England, rather than not bother doing anything to help them because they aren't competitive against England right now.

It might take 20 years to get to the stage where England are using their best 17 for every game, but so be it - as I've said before, patience is what is needed, moreso than anything else.

And just in case any nasty union journalists start trying to make fun, here's what we say back:

'Rather than only allowing 6 sides to sit at the top table in European Rugby League, we are giving 8 countries that chance, and the other 8 the chance to earn the opportunity to test themselves against the best in Europe, unlike the closed shop that is international rugby union in Europe, where the 'top' sides do not deem the rest of Europe worthy of gracing their hallowed fields, ensuring that none of them can develop to where they could threaten the ruling elite of the European game. We aren't afraid that at some point, the home nations may not rule the roost in our game, and will instead celebrate the creation of a vibrant international scene.'

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