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Cherry and White

dark times ahead

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Don't Hetherington, Lenegan and McManus have any input into the direction the game's going in then?

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Hard to disagree with that assessment, from the outside there doesn't appear to be any sort of strategy in place in regards to the sustainability and growth of the sport at all levels. Both the clubs and the RFL have presided over this demise and need to come up with something to get the sport out of it. 

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:(

 

He's supposed to be the expert. All he knows is that the game is on a "slide into decline" and suggest asking a few ex-players what to do about it. But isn't he one of those himself? So if he doesn't know the answer, why would Wilkin?

 

And although he does cite some "facts" to support his contention of decline, I do take issue with his overall proposition. 

 

Just a piece to provoke a response

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Hard to disagree with that assessment...

 Actually, its remarkably easy. Cherry picking a few negative points a 1/4 of the way through the season hardly represents an in-depth analysis of the state of the game.

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I'm not sure about this...

we have reached the point where a think tank of the best brains in the game is needed to provide the medicine rugby league needs.

...these are the brains that have either got us in this mess or will think of themselves (clubs) only.

 

His solution too is a bit weak like JohnM says, if all it took was talking we'd have sorted it already.

 

Another thing is it bugs me how it took a demolition job on Bradford and Salford to come out of the other side, and this season it looks to be Hull KR and Castleford, but then there's every chance those two teams could "do a Salford" and then all is rosy. There's something awfully short term about this thinking.

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Never quite sure why we assume that just because someone has earned a few quid playing the game they should necessarily be best qualified to comment on the administration of it.

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I'm not sure about this...

...these are the brains that have either got us in this mess or will think of themselves (clubs) only.

 

 

Ideally we would have an independent commission like they have in Australia whose remit is the benefit of the game as a whole. Basically what the RFL are supposed to be doing but who have been brushed aside by the SLE. The difference is the Australian IC can afford to attract the best people for the job.

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:(

 

He's supposed to be the expert. All he knows is that the game is on a "slide into decline"

 

Just a piece to provoke a response

He has a column to fill and mustn't fill it with anything contentious, doesn't want to upset anyone as he has his position to think about.

So it's the usual vacuous piece, nothing meaty like Neil Hudgells honesty column.

I do think in his position hob nobbing in the boardrooms after all those SKY games and coming into contact with all the big players when theur guards are down and tongues loosened by the G & T's he knows darn well what's coming in terms of developments and attempted solutions but chooses not to share them with us.

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The RFL as a governing body needs get its house in order, there's too many incompetent people in positions of power blocking any radical overhaul of the game in this country.

Barwick is a good start but he's part time in his role and ultimately has no real power to change things.

The clubs get a say in decision making but they can't always agree amongst themselves. Heatherington was one of the chairmen pushing for the dual registration system, Eamon McManus was strongly opposed to it, and offered a compromise of keeping an U23 competition, but the vote went Heatheringtons way. 

The players get very little say in the game. The new group headed by Wilkin & Peacock can give opinions to the RFL on behalf of the players, like they did recently telling them that the vast majority of players wanted to retain the shoulder charge, but the RFL chose to ignore them.

 

Personally i'd like to see the RFL go down the NRL route with an independent commission. Time for a big clear out at Red Hall !

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10/12 Strong, well supported clubs with 8,000 minimum season ticket holders is what the game needs. Now it needs to be decided how to get there.

 

Mergers is my option but many dont like them (i understand why)

 

Look at Salford and Oldham merger, them 2 clubs Being a Greater Manchester team would have been great for Rugby League, worse case senario of the merger is a poorly supported SL club, which one is now, and the other my club, less said the better.

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I thought it was a pretty big call for an employee to raise negative issues about the game he is paid and employed to comment on.

Many employees would never be negative about their Job in public.

Good on him for being so frank.

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10/12 Strong, well supported clubs with 8,000 minimum season ticket holders is what the game needs. Now it needs to be decided how to get there.

Mergers is my option but many dont like them (i understand why)

Look at Salford and Oldham merger, them 2 clubs Being a Greater Manchester team would have been great for Rugby League, worse case senario of the merger is a poorly supported SL club, which one is now, and the other my club, less said the better.

Back in 1995 I campaigned against this proposition. 18 years on I can actually see the logic. Oldham is still a great nursery ground for talent and still has plenty of latent support for the game; Salford has lots going for it now but also faces significant challenges.

IF these two elements could somehow be knitted together with the support of the fans, who knows.....

It won't happen though.

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This past season I've felt the game has been in decline, and it makes me sad. Take for example our falling viewing figures on sky, or the falling attendances at matches, falling salaries of our players etc.

 

Something needs to change, whilst Phil doesn't have the answers he's at least had the conviction to state the problem and to suggest where we might be able to find the answers.

 

Maybe its time to frame the future again. But the key isn't framing it, its getting everyone onboard and moving towards it together.

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Although there is clearly value in talking to people like John Wilkin, I'd like to see the Aussies we have here participate more.

I think every single player who comes here from the NRL ought to spend half a day being fully debriefed by the RFL on their NRL and junior development experiences. And again after a year of playing in the SL, and again when they leave.

I strongly suspect an awful lot could be learnt in half a day of talking to Brett Hodgson.

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Although there is clearly value in talking to people like John Wilkin, I'd like to see the Aussies we have here participate more.

I think every single player who comes here from the NRL ought to spend half a day being fully debriefed by the RFL on their NRL and junior development experiences. And again after a year of playing in the SL, and again when they leave.

I strongly suspect an awful lot could be learnt in half a day of talking to Brett Hodgson.

If that is not done already its a sad inditement on how the game is conducted in England.

All smart sports take input from players trained elsewhere surely?

Jack Gibson was going to the NFL in America back in the early 70's to get new ideas and Coaching philosophy he could use in the ARL with Easts and Parramatta.

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If the worst he can come up with is Hull not producing a half back then there can't be much wrong with the game. The article is a bit shallow IMHO and he doesn't offer any answers.

 

People at the moment don't have money to spend. The coldest winter in years means the heating is still on with big bills ahead and a match ticket is way down the list of priorities. The high street is reporting falling or static takings and shops and pubs are crashing around our ears. 

 

It will take a good world cup to keep the spirits up and if the economy improves (don't hold your breath) then the game will be OK. If not we will have to manage a decline until it can be revived. People can't spend money they haven't got. Not anymore anyway.

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The new group headed by Wilkin & Peacock can give opinions to the RFL on behalf of the players, like they did recently telling them that the vast majority of players wanted to retain the shoulder charge, but the RFL chose to ignore them.

 

Just to be clear, no they never. The RFL took the players position and decided against instituting a ban, then when the RLIF met they voted against it there too.

 

But the RLIF banned it so they had no choice but to follow.  They could have played out the season and waited until next year, but it would have been poor preparation for a world cup to suddenly expect players to play differently in October.

 

Personally i'd like to see the RFL go down the NRL route with an independent commission. Time for a big clear out at Red Hall !

 

Because they listened to the players and never banned the shoulder charge?

 

By the Australian model the RFL already is an independent commission, the only way we would be able to go down the NRL route is the clubs gave up control of Super League to the RFL.

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What frustrates me about all of this is that we are not alone in finding things difficult, yet we are the only sport to shout it from the rooftops!

 

The RU premiership will post is third season in a row of declining attendance figures, Wasps have just been saved from going bust, and only managed to pay their players over xmas by another £1m director loan, Bath just posted a £2.8m loss, an increase of £1m from last year, bringing their total debt to over £12m since 2005.  Saracens have lost another £6m, bringing their loss over the past 6 years to over £30m.  Wasps are in a similar position to Bath and god knows what sale, LW,  are like.

 

Yet I have still to see an article from one of their key presenters/journalists stating how bad a shape their game is in.  I think in RL every single journalist has had a pop this year because after years of growth we are seeing a slight decline in attendances.  

 

The game is better than ever with closer scorelines and less uncertainty, the International profile is growing, we have a WC in 6 months time where 15-20% of the overall tickets have gone already, and we have a number of partner sponsors which we haven't had in previous years.

 

We've just found out that for 6 weeks at the end of the year there will be live International RL on the main terrestrial channel, and we've already sold the rights to 2014, 2016 and 2017 international competitions.  Premier sports are a new RL bidder for top level RL, and it looks like their package will be available on Sky and Virgin in time for the WC.  Brilliant

 

Viewing numbers show we are still the second highest watched sport on Sky, and now we have competition from another broadcaster for RL rights.  With BT vision also entering the sports arena, come then next round of bidding for TV rights we should get an even better deal.

 

Salford and Bradford are under new exciting management, Wakefield have steadily improved since AG took over, Leeds have announced record profits, Wigan, Saints, Hull FC, Catalan, Huddersfield, Widnes and Warrington are all going strong and here to stay, leaving 3 out of 14 clubs with question marks over them 

 

Yet once again because 20% of our clubs are struggling we focus on that, rather than the 80% that are doing well.

 

Yes, things can be better, but as a sport if we want to get better we need to focus on the good things and develop them.  No business model will ever work if you change fundamental things to improve a poor minority - you work with the poor minority to get them up to the same level as the better majority.

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I think Clarke makes some good points and it would be wrong to deny that the game has problems. There are a number of issues where we have been papering over the cracks for years. Personally I think we've been in a bit of an attendance bubble for the last few years that is starting to burst. Many clubs crowds have been somewhat artificially inflated either due to new stadia or because of unsustainable deals. Clubs like Wigan and Leeds also appear to have peaked.

The point where I would deviate from many fans is that I think the games problems are largely due to outside factors and I'm not sure that there is much that we could have or can do to halt the eventual decline of the game in this country. We have probably done well to get to where we are now.

Realistically since 1995 and even before we've been well up against it. We have seen incredible globalisation and unsurprisingly it is the sports that can offer a global dimension that are flourishing, none more so than Football. Big sports have an appeal way beyond their previous boundaries and all of sudden clubs within a 100 mile radius of places like Manchester are having to compete directly with Manchester United. Unsurprisingly, many of these clubs end up looking old-fashioned and parochial.

The bigger problem for me is RU. Their sport has improved immeasurably since professionalism and has grown independently to RL to the point where they now dwarf us in England even. This was an inevitability when you consider the money, the internationals and the privileged position that it holds in many circles. The bigger problem is that is has stifled and still stifles any likely growth we have. We just aren't a different enough sport to flourish where RU is successful, either domestically or internationally. Why take up watching or playing a game you already watch or play but that has some relatively minor rule differences? Especially when the sport you already watch is much bigger and offers a more varied calender of events. France is a more extreme scenario of what I suspect is already slowly happening over here. We will get to the point where RU is so much more appealing that they will have the pick of our youth and players which will continue to cause the game to decline.

It's something that I regularly consider and it becomes more apparent as the years go by. I don't blame anyone for it, especially not the RFL and I get some comfort from the fact that I'm another in a long line to have predicted the end of the game only for it not to have happened yet.

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What frustrates me about all of this is that we are not alone in finding things difficult, yet we are the only sport to shout it from the rooftops!

 

The RU premiership will post is third season in a row of declining attendance figures, Wasps have just been saved from going bust, and only managed to pay their players over xmas by another £1m director loan, Bath just posted a £2.8m loss, an increase of £1m from last year, bringing their total debt to over £12m since 2005.  Saracens have lost another £6m, bringing their loss over the past 6 years to over £30m.  Wasps are in a similar position to Bath and god knows what sale, LW,  are like.

 

Yet I have still to see an article from one of their key presenters/journalists stating how bad a shape their game is in.  I think in RL every single journalist has had a pop this year because after years of growth we are seeing a slight decline in attendances.  

 

The game is better than ever with closer scorelines and less uncertainty, the International profile is growing, we have a WC in 6 months time where 15-20% of the overall tickets have gone already, and we have a number of partner sponsors which we haven't had in previous years.

 

We've just found out that for 6 weeks at the end of the year there will be live International RL on the main terrestrial channel, and we've already sold the rights to 2014, 2016 and 2017 international competitions.  Premier sports are a new RL bidder for top level RL, and it looks like their package will be available on Sky and Virgin in time for the WC.  Brilliant

 

Viewing numbers show we are still the second highest watched sport on Sky, and now we have competition from another broadcaster for RL rights.  With BT vision also entering the sports arena, come then next round of bidding for TV rights we should get an even better deal.

 

Salford and Bradford are under new exciting management, Wakefield have steadily improved since AG took over, Leeds have announced record profits, Wigan, Saints, Hull FC, Catalan, Huddersfield, Widnes and Warrington are all going strong and here to stay, leaving 3 out of 14 clubs with question marks over them 

 

Yet once again because 20% of our clubs are struggling we focus on that, rather than the 80% that are doing well.

 

Yes, things can be better, but as a sport if we want to get better we need to focus on the good things and develop them.  No business model will ever work if you change fundamental things to improve a poor minority - you work with the poor minority to get them up to the same level as the better majority.

You're completely right about being the sport that shouts it loudest from the rooftops. As we discussed last week, some fans seem to almost want it to decline so that they can have a good moan about it.

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What was he actually saying is wrong?

 

It was one of the most shallow articles I have read in a while. I wonder if he is in a grump about not working on the World Cup.

 

Didn't Clarke used to work for the RFL as Eng/GB Manager and gave up on that, moaning?

 

BTW - not criticising him for saying things are wrong, it would be foolish to ignore that or bury your head in the sand, but I don't know what he is saying is wrong.

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I thought he was saying that the game is in decline, but he doesn't know what is wrong, and that better people than him are needed to work that out.

 

If I've understood that correctly I'm not sure I can disagree.

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So theses are the things he points out:

 

1 ) SL is heading for dark times unless something changes - this is just a headline

 

2 ) No major sponsor - disappointing, but the reality is that £1m worth of income split 15 ways is a relatively small amount per club anyway. The message it sends is not great, but in the current climate, things are tough we just have to live with it. Why not point out that we have attracted new sponsor deals this year from Foxy, Tetleys, Kingstone Press, Brut, Heinz etc?

 

3 ) Hull KR backer wants to stop spending - nothing new here - it has happened loads of times through history, in all sports not just ours - why not point out about the two new sets of investors at Bulls and Salford?

 

4 ) London's crowds going down - again, this pretty much could have been pointed out for the last 10 years, but I agree this one is pretty hard to defend!

 

5 ) No player pathway (DR is a disaster) - opinion, fair enough, DR is not popular, and there has to be concerns around the fact that some players have literally nowhere to play if not selected at first team level. Clubs like Wigan and Leeds who have great systems decided that the old system did not work, we should assume that there will be changes next year.

 

6 ) No Hull halfback - pretty minor point.

 

7 ) Directors discussing reducing SL - so they should - they should always be reviewing the structures to make sure they are happy with them. This should involve reducing and expanding.

 

 

There is nothing new there, or particularly interesting.

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So theses are the things he points out:

 

1 ) SL is heading for dark times unless something changes - this is just a headline

 

2 ) No major sponsor - disappointing, but the reality is that £1m worth of income split 15 ways is a relatively small amount per club anyway. The message it sends is not great, but in the current climate, things are tough we just have to live with it. Why not point out that we have attracted new sponsor deals this year from Foxy, Tetleys, Kingstone Press, Brut, Heinz etc?

 

3 ) Hull KR backer wants to stop spending - nothing new here - it has happened loads of times through history, in all sports not just ours - why not point out about the two new sets of investors at Bulls and Salford?

 

4 ) London's crowds going down - again, this pretty much could have been pointed out for the last 10 years, but I agree this one is pretty hard to defend!

 

5 ) No player pathway (DR is a disaster) - opinion, fair enough, DR is not popular, and there has to be concerns around the fact that some players have literally nowhere to play if not selected at first team level. Clubs like Wigan and Leeds who have great systems decided that the old system did not work, we should assume that there will be changes next year.

 

6 ) No Hull halfback - pretty minor point.

 

7 ) Directors discussing reducing SL - so they should - they should always be reviewing the structures to make sure they are happy with them. This should involve reducing and expanding.

 

 

There is nothing new there, or particularly interesting.

I think it's easy to dismiss the article based on the individual points that he makes but I think the overall point - that Super League is potentially heading for some hard times, is a sound one. When he talks about papering over the cracks, I think he is referring to facts like that without wealthy backers, very few clubs can afford SL. It might seem like it has always been the case and it is true that other sports have the problem but if the game does see a slide in attendance and therefore revenue, we are only going to see less money men in the game leading to some serious problems.

We had 2 clubs effectively collapse last year and both have only partially recovered and I'm not sure Salford ever will; the town showed considerable apathy to the idea of saving them. We have a number of others seemingly waiting for their turn to collapse when their backer gives up: London, Hull KR, Huddersfield, Castleford, Widnes etc There aren't the clubs to replace them any more if they do. This will in turn have an effect on the bigger clubs if the overall health of the sport is deemed to be weak.

Of course some may see new backers come in but there is a real feeling of fragility around the game at the top level. I think Hudgell's recent actions and comments have highlighted this. It may never happen but I think we could see a mini-implosion of SL if attendances start to decline across all clubs. I think it's this general feeling that Clarke is referring to.

We've had a number of years of growth but in some ways this has been built on sand. A reversal of this growth could have some serious consequences for the sport. The best point that Clarke made was that despite having serious trouble in the past, the world has changed and in today's world we might not survive similar crises.

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