Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

DeadShotKeen

Why the Hull clubs must merge

311 posts in this topic

The good people of Nova Magazine in Hull have been kind enough to publish a piece I've written for their Christmas issue detailing why the Hull sides must merge and it can be read on the online version of the magazine via this link:

http://novamaghull.com/read/

Alternatively, I've copied-and-pasted it below for ease.

It was initially a good deal longer so I had to edit it quite significantly. I'll spare you the full unexpurgated version though as this abridged version is long enough I think.

Sure to provoke a bit of debate and doubtless not all calm and level-headed but that's fine - it's an emotive issue.

Cheers.

Why the Hull rugby league clubs must merge

Way back in 1995 a proposal was quickly drawn up and rubber-stamped that was set to change professional rugby league in Europe overnight and beyond recognition. The idea was simple - merge several small sides in order to pit them alongside more successful, cash-rich existing sides then add some new "expansion" teams in large untapped areas to form a franchised North American-style sports league to replace our old promotion and relegation based tiered model. The germ of this idea was the reasonable assertion that the old model was starting to creak and wasn't built for the modern era; that there were simply too many teams in too small an area spreading the sport's limited means too thinly. That the proposal was quickly crushed by a spirited uprising from the sport's fanbase increasingly looks less like a commendable display of people power and more like the latest in a very long line of bad luck stories to befall the sport on these shores. As rugby league in the Northern hemisphere currently withers on the vine (shorn of investment and even without a main sponsor for its flagship Super League competition), the initial sense of solidarity and victory emerging from the retention of the status quo back then now looks as hollow and damaging as any event in the history of UK sport. The lesson learnt: be careful what you wish for.

Let me place this view in some context. I am a long-standing Hull Kingston Rovers fan who grew up a stone's throw from their old Craven Park ground and first saw them play as a nipper back in the side's heyday of the early 1980s, remembers the days at the peak of both Hull clubs' dominance when the wrong answer to "Are you red-and-white or black-and-white?" in the school playground could earn you a Chinese burn and who has followed Rovers ever since. Furthermore, as a 21 year-old in 1995, I was amongst those who vehemently opposed the restructure, not far enough removed did we appear from the sport's most popular period of the 1970s and 1980s and not far enough were we into the post-Champions League glamour and high commerce that swept through all of European sport in the ensuing years for me to make real sense of it. Jack Walker had only just reignited a fondness for tradition by securing the Premier League title for his beloved Blackburn Rovers with heavy investment (that less than 20 years on, it should be noted, would barely get such a small market side into that league). There still seemed hope for small teams steeped in history run aground in the newer, harsher landscape and in short, I was not ready for change.

The fact of the matter, however, is that the 1995 plan - whilst clearly flawed in some areas - was ahead of its time and that the current rudderlessness, rift and acrimony in the European game (as I write this, 6 "rebel" club chairmen have walked away from Super League reconstruction talks) could all have been averted with a bit more planning, backbone and savvy public relations from the sport's leaders back then. What we need, quite plainly, are some mergers. In Cheshire, Calder, Cumbria (where there is not currently a Super League presence) and - sharp intake of breath - in Kingston-upon-Hull.

Put simply, Hull KR is no longer the same proposition that it was in 1980. And nor are teams like Widnes, Wakefield and Castleford. Back then, these and even smaller sides could quite easily compete at the top level of the game. Rugby league, like all of our sports (even football), was cash moderate and not far removed from amateurism. TV exposure was limited and as a pedigree player you could pit your wits against the very best and achieve everything you wanted within the sport from your small Northern outpost, in front of about 8,000 fans. Sure, Leeds and St Helens may have had more paying through their turnstiles but this rarely amounted to a tangible advantage. You could beat them. Rovers repeatedly did, to my little heart's content. These were simpler, more benign times. But what was around the corner - and what the Americans and Australians anticipated but we didn't - was a new era; a TV era, where money talked, big was beautiful and baffling phenomenon like "image rights" became everyday jargon. American football in particular is run according to the oft-quoted maxim of "fatcat Republicans [team owners] voting socialist". These are men moneyed from the free market who understand that the commerce of sport is quite different; that for longevity of fan interest, success must not be allowed to breed success, that some sides will have larger fan bases than others (and thus be more resistant to financial meltdown during lean periods) and that any side's fanbase would crumble into dust in time if they were seen to not be genuinely competitive in the long-run. So a form of "capitalist socialism" has emerged. Not all can play, but those invited (and thus passing strict criteria that disqualify most) will play on an even playing field. And it is something that Australian rugby league tuned into in the late 1990s when it set about a raising of standards and tightening of club finances within its game that necessitated the mergers of some smaller sides, including the legendary St George and Western Suburbs outfits. There was dissent back then, of course, but in the NRL there is not currently disharmony and disenchantment. There is instead a massive (and growing) TV audience, a constantly rising salary cap and likely expansion into new regions. You do the math, as the Yanks say.

Back to our game, and back a bit in time. In 1993 a huge event took place within rugby league. Its leading young English player - a Featherstone lad named Paul Newlove - did the unthinkable and broke the hearts of that tiny former mining village and its proud rugby league legacy by ditching Featherstone Rovers for the bright lights of Bradford Northern. With hindsight, this now plays out like a watershed moment for the sport. Sure, players had always come and gone - some lured by big bucks and the empty promises of wealthy chairmen - but this seemed different somehow. Newlove's move was attuned to an invisible new force and a rejection of the very idea of a club like Featherstone Rovers competing at the top level in the modern era. Newlove's heart was with Featherstone but put simply, he could achieve more with Bradford. Such moves up the hierarchy are of course now commonplace in both football and rugby league but much less so then. Even before this, at Hull KR our own prodigal son Anthony Sullivan - not only our brightest hope but the son of a former great cast into local mythology by his tragic early death to cancer soon after his career ended; our emotional link to the recent glorious past, no less - did the same by leaving for St Helens as his spiritual club - now fallen on hard times - crumbled slowly towards administration and near extinction. These were new times. This was Year Zero for British sport. The big sides were pulling away and our elite professional levels needed a smaller number of newer, shinier franchises in order to keep up with them, not the same swathe of small traditional shoestring-budget outfits. But we ploughed on as we were, either through ignorance, hope or some naive middle ground.

And of course, this was not the end for Hull KR. Kept afloat by a hardcore of around 2,000 fans at semi-professional level, the club found its saviour in current wealthy chairman Neil Hudgell, who kick-started a revolution in the early "Noughties" leading to the club's current position in the mid-ranks of the sport's professional elite. Hudgell is a great asset not only to the club but to the wider game of rugby league, underwriting as he has done big personal losses to bring some calibre players and some good times back to MS3 Craven Park. But the question is whether Hudgell's money could have been better spent. He himself acknowledges that making Hull KR competitive comes with a huge price tag. Many years ago he set the club's fans the target of numbering 10,000 in order to make the club break even financially at maximum salary cap spend. Despite several years of play-off qualification, we haven't pushed past 8K and frankly don't look like doing so, particularly as Hudgell's patience wanes and he cuts his losses by moving - quite understandably - ever further away from said full cap spend. Hudgell is wealthy but he has limits and "achieving more with less" is the current maxim that runs through the majority of his comments. And yet in sport - like anything else in a harsh capitalist landscape - you get what you pay for. Anyone who has been to MS3 Craven Park in recent times will tell you that the fans are fervent and loyal and the East Stand makes a lot of noise. But the brutal fact of the matter is that there are just not enough of us for the club to be anywhere near self-sustainable and competitive at Super League level in tandem, as there are not enough of these same fans at Widnes, Wakefield and Castleford.

Furthermore, Hudgell won't be here forever and when he goes, who replaces him? Only a few months ago the man himself made a very honest assertion of how difficult it is to attract significant investment in Hull KR. [paraphrasing here] "What we are doing" he said "is scouring Hull for businesses that are open to investing in Hull KR". Now, consider that statement more closely and you get to the crux of the problem with the current Super League structure. Not just a search limited to businesses in the City of Hull - modest in size and as economically challenged right now as any in the North of England - but limited to approximately half of those. It is a staggering comment and reinforces what anyone with even a modest grasp of sporting finance knows - that this club is simply a labour of love. Admirable and romantic but ultimately perennially skating on thin ice and offering little of genuine value to the elite league that accommodates it. Let me be clear that this is not a slight on the club or any of its ardent, die-hard fans. It is simply a condemnation of a system that asks Hull KR and teams like us to punch above our weight year after year and in the face of increasing hardship and lessening hope. It is a system that is frankly unsustainable. The sport needed mergers in 1995 to avoid hitting the choppy waters we now find ourselves adrift in. We now need them simply to stay afloat.

Across the river from Hull KR's East Hull enclave, Adam Pearson - a man who cut his sporting entrepreneurial teeth as marketing guru for Leeds United - is in charge of the ambiguously named Hull FC (a branding disaster dating back to pre-football/rugby split 1865 that must surely not be lost on him). They are bigger than my team Hull KR. But only just. At present a hardcore of around 11,000 fans ensure that they perennially dream (only slightly wishfully) of ruling the Super League roost. But it should be noted that their recent steady demise (both in fan numbers and on-field achievement) has coincided with the re-emergence of Rovers, proving that even in a town steeped in rugby league tradition like Hull there are a limited number of paying customers (and also giving the lie to the oft voiced anti-merger opinion that fans do not and will not change allegiance - fans clearly moved from Rovers to FC in the early Noughties and there is nothing unusual or surprising about this). Put simply, when both FC and Rovers come face-to-face with the 18K of Leeds, the 16K of St Helens and Wigan and the 15K of Bradford, they should not be gallantly punching above their weight but rather coming together, putting aside previous differences and making a conjoined fist of presenting the very best that Hull rugby league has to offer the world. The enemy is at the gates but we continue to squabble amongst ourselves.

The problem with any merger discussion is that opposition to such plans rarely gets past a base emotional level as screams of "Never!" and "Tradition!" drown out the much calmer, more level-headed NRL-type restructure arguments. Whilst I understand that this is an emotive issue and have in the past been sympathetic to merger opposition (being at times torn myself), more recently I have come to view most defenders of our traditional teams and sporting models as little more than spoilt children sulking at being asked to share their favourite toys. In many cases, a loyalty to a particular side actually overrides any love of the wider sport and of its general health, which - as someone who loves Hull KR but loves the sport of rugby league over and above this - I find bemusing. I have known many a rugby league fan in the pub or on an internet forum air the view that they would rather see the sport die than see their own team merge with the so-called "enemy". Such hugely popular knee-jerk views must not be allowed easy airspace in the name of the much-loved British sporting trait of "passion". They are unhelpful and empty and must be fought at every turn.

There is - of course - a case to be made for 2 pro rugby league sides in Hull but it is not merely the retention of the status quo and of the Hull derby, rather it is the belief that both sides could organically move towards the 15K fanbase that will allow them to genuinely compete at the top level and thus justify their continued existence in practical (and not merely emotional) terms in any serious modern elite league. In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that this can happen (which I have yet to see), at some point common sense must usurp tradition and we must all "man up" and move on. And what really does this sport owe any of us in these heartland areas beyond representation at elite level by one self-sustainable, largely future-proof side? It owes us precisely nothing more.

Let me give a practical case in point of the overall futility of following a side like Hull KR, this being the career of Scott Taylor. Just a couple of years ago I watched with particular excitement as this young local lad emerged in our second row and developed the strongest leg drive of any young forward in the league, frequently requiring 3 or more opposition players to halt him as he carved up easy metres in the middle of the park. I watched him single-handedly destroy opposing packs whilst humbly acknowledging the traveling support that vociferously sang his name, running over to us at times, kissing the badge and doing all the things that fine young athletes who give their all week in-week out earn the right to do, all the while carrying himself with the poise, grace and composure befitting of the young face and future of the club. Scott was, to all intents and purposes, one of us. But what happened next was depressingly obvious and plays itself out in football and rugby league columns up and down the country pretty much every week. Shorn of a couple of big contracts (Leuluai and Finch - returning to NRL), the elite Wigan pounced, securing not only him but our outstanding Aussie stand-off Blake Green on - one can only assume - better contracts than we could offer either. Like many fans in similar positions I ask myself faced with this scenario what, ultimately, is the point of following this team? And I come up short of answers. Because Taylor and Green are not one-offs and nor are they results of mismanagement or some internal club fallout. They are endemic instances of players too good (long-term) by design for teams in the middle of the pack of any British sport that simply move up the hierarchy. With 1 team in Hull, however, they could still be plying their trade here - that they are not is merely 1 symptom of a sick system in need of a cure. And in some ways - as fervent fans enjoying our cross-town rivalry/in-house squabbling - we are also to blame.

So much negativity is spoken about mergers that I want to focus on some positives. For me, the idea of attending the KC Stadium for the inaugural game of the new merged team (presumably against Leeds or Bradford) simply gives me goose bumps. Picture the scene: 20,000 packed in, the big screen showing some old footage with a clever segue into the new team's logo (the colours presumably black and red) and some booming atmospherics across the PA as the new side - an amalgamation of local and world talent - run on, previously divided families and friends now joined together and cheering as one in embryonic fervour. This would be an unforgettable moment spoken of in local pubs and clubs for decades to come. And the old teams would not be forgotten. Retro jerseys would acknowledge previous triumphs as old folklores strengthen in the new era and the game revels in tales from its proud, ancient past. History can never be overwritten but I am about European rugby league making its own history; of mums and dads all across the elite landscape passing on to their kids a side that they can be proud of, that will compete for them and that they will never have to throw loose change into "Save our club" buckets for (only to do the same, again and again, year after year). And that people far removed from the old rugby league heartlands will have reason to have heard of.

Quite simply, we limit ourselves as a sport by too much deference to history and tradition by spreading ourselves too thin in our heartland regions. Whatever we may have previously thought, rugby league could not and will not conquer the world from Batley. Much further afield than the M62 corridor, the sporting public would have reason to have heard of a merged Hull side in a bigger, better, more financially viable and more intense elite competition. And they would pack into pubs, on occasion, to watch them. So what we lose in Hull by way of tradition (and what we have previously done can never be tarnished, never be deleted) we gain in a wider appreciation of our town and in the sport that we nurtured and then helped to kick on. And that is worth a million pointless Hull derbies of mediocre standard played out against a backdrop of indifference and financial ruin.

"Are you red-and-white or black-and-white?" I am neither. I'm simply a rugby league fan from Kingston-upon-Hull frustrated by our outdated sporting mechanisms and I want my modern team.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even after an extremely successful world cup in the NORTHERN hemisphere it does not stop DSK from posting the same dull content since the day his Hull KR side got beat 82-6 at home to Wigan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I got as far as the bit where Paul Newlove was a apparently the first ever player to leave a smaller club for a bigger club before I gave up. Because obviously that had never ever happened prior to 1993.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yawn.

 

I'm not even a supporter of any Super League club and I'm not Northern but god I feel sorry for Hull fans, Barrow fans, Workington fans, Whitehaven fans, Castleford fans, Featherstone fans, Widnes fans, Wakefield fans etc who constantly have to put up with this utter, utter ######.

 

Merging will alienate large swaths of fans, as it has done in North Sydney and in the Western Suburbs. Clubs never end up with the power, money and influence of adding two or three clubs together would calculate (eg Castleford and Wakefield merged would not mean 16,000 crowds).

 

Please stop. It's getting boring. And stop saying all this is in the name of "progress" and "expansion".

 

I'm all for both - but merging isn't it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am FC fan, not through family traditions or from been brought up in the city or even living there. So maybe I don't have the fanatical 'never' merge streak about me.

I agree with what you say not just Hull but other clubs/areas as well as I want the sport to thrive and I perhaps naively believe the way to do this is to have 'super clubs' in big cities or for whole areas. This, I think will eventually get us proper sustainable professional clubs, not some and the rest maskerading as pro clubs now.

In having said that if York were in a position to get in top division I would be all over it, as it were. Although York after all is a big city not a small village ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Are you red-and-white or black-and-white?" I am neither. I'm simply a rugby league fan from Kingston-upon-Hull frustrated by our outdated sporting mechanisms and I want my modern team.

The answer that you give to your own question is the reason why you will never grasp the notion that mergers will never work in RL.

If in fantasy land the 2 Hulls merged then a huge amount of the fan base would probably be lost for ever as they would not want to see a joint side containing players from the rival club.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow what a superb article, you show great understanding of what the original SL blueprint was intended to do for the game and how failing to implement it has let British RL down.   Unfortunately it's clear from some of the responses that there are still many people around who don't understand how the world of sports has moved on thanks to the impact of television.

 

Thanks to TV money there's far more money in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL than there was years ago.  The same is true of NCAA football and basketball too, though in their case instead of going to players it goes into facilities, coaches' salaries, etc.  The same process happened in Aussie Rules football and Aussie RL and in British soccer and RU too.   British RL today faces the same simple choice it faced in 1995, if it's not too late to make now: follow the same path or fall further and further behind over time and eventually fail.

 

In the early '90s Wigan was a full-time elite team, and SL was about creating a whole league of such full-time elite teams comparable to the FA Premiership.  They could and should have done that in 1995 before RU went pro but they backed down instead.  In the meantime RU has taken a big chunk of the media coverage, TV and sponsorship money which might have been RL's if they'd followed the original SL blueprint when it was put before them.

 

As I've said on another thread, big time, national sports deserve national coverage and big-money sponsorships, not small-time regional ones.  Whether British RL still has time to make that transition or has left it too late is hard to say, but it might well be the latter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The good people of Nova Magazine in Hull have been kind enough to publish a piece I've written for their Christmas issue detailing why the Hull sides must merge and it can be read on the online version of the magazine via this link:

http://novamaghull.com/read/

Alternatively, I've copied-and-pasted it below for ease.

It was initially a good deal longer so I had to edit it quite significantly. I'll spare you the full unexpurgated version though as this abridged version is long enough I think.

Sure to provoke a bit of debate and doubtless not all calm and level-headed but that's fine - it's an emotive issue.

Cheers.

Why the Hull rugby league clubs must merge

Way back in 1995 a proposal was quickly drawn up and rubber-stamped that was set to change professional rugby league in Europe overnight and beyond recognition. The idea was simple - merge several small sides in order to pit them alongside more successful, cash-rich existing sides then add some new "expansion" teams in large untapped areas to form a franchised North American-style sports league to replace our old promotion and relegation based tiered model. The germ of this idea was the reasonable assertion that the old model was starting to creak and wasn't built for the modern era; that there were simply too many teams in too small an area spreading the sport's limited means too thinly. That the proposal was quickly crushed by a spirited uprising from the sport's fanbase increasingly looks less like a commendable display of people power and more like the latest in a very long line of bad luck stories to befall the sport on these shores. As rugby league in the Northern hemisphere currently withers on the vine (shorn of investment and even without a main sponsor for its flagship Super League competition), the initial sense of solidarity and victory emerging from the retention of the status quo back then now looks as hollow and damaging as any event in the history of UK sport. The lesson learnt: be careful what you wish for.

Let me place this view in some context. I am a long-standing Hull Kingston Rovers fan who grew up a stone's throw from their old Craven Park ground and first saw them play as a nipper back in the side's heyday of the early 1980s, remembers the days at the peak of both Hull clubs' dominance when the wrong answer to "Are you red-and-white or black-and-white?" in the school playground could earn you a Chinese burn and who has followed Rovers ever since. Furthermore, as a 21 year-old in 1995, I was amongst those who vehemently opposed the restructure, not far enough removed did we appear from the sport's most popular period of the 1970s and 1980s and not far enough were we into the post-Champions League glamour and high commerce that swept through all of European sport in the ensuing years for me to make real sense of it. Jack Walker had only just reignited a fondness for tradition by securing the Premier League title for his beloved Blackburn Rovers with heavy investment (that less than 20 years on, it should be noted, would barely get such a small market side into that league). There still seemed hope for small teams steeped in history run aground in the newer, harsher landscape and in short, I was not ready for change.

The fact of the matter, however, is that the 1995 plan - whilst clearly flawed in some areas - was ahead of its time and that the current rudderlessness, rift and acrimony in the European game (as I write this, 6 "rebel" club chairmen have walked away from Super League reconstruction talks) could all have been averted with a bit more planning, backbone and savvy public relations from the sport's leaders back then. What we need, quite plainly, are some mergers. In Cheshire, Calder, Cumbria (where there is not currently a Super League presence) and - sharp intake of breath - in Kingston-upon-Hull.

Put simply, Hull KR is no longer the same proposition that it was in 1980. And nor are teams like Widnes, Wakefield and Castleford. Back then, these and even smaller sides could quite easily compete at the top level of the game. Rugby league, like all of our sports (even football), was cash moderate and not far removed from amateurism. TV exposure was limited and as a pedigree player you could pit your wits against the very best and achieve everything you wanted within the sport from your small Northern outpost, in front of about 8,000 fans. Sure, Leeds and St Helens may have had more paying through their turnstiles but this rarely amounted to a tangible advantage. You could beat them. Rovers repeatedly did, to my little heart's content. These were simpler, more benign times. But what was around the corner - and what the Americans and Australians anticipated but we didn't - was a new era; a TV era, where money talked, big was beautiful and baffling phenomenon like "image rights" became everyday jargon. American football in particular is run according to the oft-quoted maxim of "fatcat Republicans [team owners] voting socialist". These are men moneyed from the free market who understand that the commerce of sport is quite different; that for longevity of fan interest, success must not be allowed to breed success, that some sides will have larger fan bases than others (and thus be more resistant to financial meltdown during lean periods) and that any side's fanbase would crumble into dust in time if they were seen to not be genuinely competitive in the long-run. So a form of "capitalist socialism" has emerged. Not all can play, but those invited (and thus passing strict criteria that disqualify most) will play on an even playing field. And it is something that Australian rugby league tuned into in the late 1990s when it set about a raising of standards and tightening of club finances within its game that necessitated the mergers of some smaller sides, including the legendary St George and Western Suburbs outfits. There was dissent back then, of course, but in the NRL there is not currently disharmony and disenchantment. There is instead a massive (and growing) TV audience, a constantly rising salary cap and likely expansion into new regions. You do the math, as the Yanks say.

Back to our game, and back a bit in time. In 1993 a huge event took place within rugby league. Its leading young English player - a Featherstone lad named Paul Newlove - did the unthinkable and broke the hearts of that tiny former mining village and its proud rugby league legacy by ditching Featherstone Rovers for the bright lights of Bradford Northern. With hindsight, this now plays out like a watershed moment for the sport. Sure, players had always come and gone - some lured by big bucks and the empty promises of wealthy chairmen - but this seemed different somehow. Newlove's move was attuned to an invisible new force and a rejection of the very idea of a club like Featherstone Rovers competing at the top level in the modern era. Newlove's heart was with Featherstone but put simply, he could achieve more with Bradford. Such moves up the hierarchy are of course now commonplace in both football and rugby league but much less so then. Even before this, at Hull KR our own prodigal son Anthony Sullivan - not only our brightest hope but the son of a former great cast into local mythology by his tragic early death to cancer soon after his career ended; our emotional link to the recent glorious past, no less - did the same by leaving for St Helens as his spiritual club - now fallen on hard times - crumbled slowly towards administration and near extinction. These were new times. This was Year Zero for British sport. The big sides were pulling away and our elite professional levels needed a smaller number of newer, shinier franchises in order to keep up with them, not the same swathe of small traditional shoestring-budget outfits. But we ploughed on as we were, either through ignorance, hope or some naive middle ground.

And of course, this was not the end for Hull KR. Kept afloat by a hardcore of around 2,000 fans at semi-professional level, the club found its saviour in current wealthy chairman Neil Hudgell, who kick-started a revolution in the early "Noughties" leading to the club's current position in the mid-ranks of the sport's professional elite. Hudgell is a great asset not only to the club but to the wider game of rugby league, underwriting as he has done big personal losses to bring some calibre players and some good times back to MS3 Craven Park. But the question is whether Hudgell's money could have been better spent. He himself acknowledges that making Hull KR competitive comes with a huge price tag. Many years ago he set the club's fans the target of numbering 10,000 in order to make the club break even financially at maximum salary cap spend. Despite several years of play-off qualification, we haven't pushed past 8K and frankly don't look like doing so, particularly as Hudgell's patience wanes and he cuts his losses by moving - quite understandably - ever further away from said full cap spend. Hudgell is wealthy but he has limits and "achieving more with less" is the current maxim that runs through the majority of his comments. And yet in sport - like anything else in a harsh capitalist landscape - you get what you pay for. Anyone who has been to MS3 Craven Park in recent times will tell you that the fans are fervent and loyal and the East Stand makes a lot of noise. But the brutal fact of the matter is that there are just not enough of us for the club to be anywhere near self-sustainable and competitive at Super League level in tandem, as there are not enough of these same fans at Widnes, Wakefield and Castleford.

Furthermore, Hudgell won't be here forever and when he goes, who replaces him? Only a few months ago the man himself made a very honest assertion of how difficult it is to attract significant investment in Hull KR. [paraphrasing here] "What we are doing" he said "is scouring Hull for businesses that are open to investing in Hull KR". Now, consider that statement more closely and you get to the crux of the problem with the current Super League structure. Not just a search limited to businesses in the City of Hull - modest in size and as economically challenged right now as any in the North of England - but limited to approximately half of those. It is a staggering comment and reinforces what anyone with even a modest grasp of sporting finance knows - that this club is simply a labour of love. Admirable and romantic but ultimately perennially skating on thin ice and offering little of genuine value to the elite league that accommodates it. Let me be clear that this is not a slight on the club or any of its ardent, die-hard fans. It is simply a condemnation of a system that asks Hull KR and teams like us to punch above our weight year after year and in the face of increasing hardship and lessening hope. It is a system that is frankly unsustainable. The sport needed mergers in 1995 to avoid hitting the choppy waters we now find ourselves adrift in. We now need them simply to stay afloat.

Across the river from Hull KR's East Hull enclave, Adam Pearson - a man who cut his sporting entrepreneurial teeth as marketing guru for Leeds United - is in charge of the ambiguously named Hull FC (a branding disaster dating back to pre-football/rugby split 1865 that must surely not be lost on him). They are bigger than my team Hull KR. But only just. At present a hardcore of around 11,000 fans ensure that they perennially dream (only slightly wishfully) of ruling the Super League roost. But it should be noted that their recent steady demise (both in fan numbers and on-field achievement) has coincided with the re-emergence of Rovers, proving that even in a town steeped in rugby league tradition like Hull there are a limited number of paying customers (and also giving the lie to the oft voiced anti-merger opinion that fans do not and will not change allegiance - fans clearly moved from Rovers to FC in the early Noughties and there is nothing unusual or surprising about this). Put simply, when both FC and Rovers come face-to-face with the 18K of Leeds, the 16K of St Helens and Wigan and the 15K of Bradford, they should not be gallantly punching above their weight but rather coming together, putting aside previous differences and making a conjoined fist of presenting the very best that Hull rugby league has to offer the world. The enemy is at the gates but we continue to squabble amongst ourselves.

The problem with any merger discussion is that opposition to such plans rarely gets past a base emotional level as screams of "Never!" and "Tradition!" drown out the much calmer, more level-headed NRL-type restructure arguments. Whilst I understand that this is an emotive issue and have in the past been sympathetic to merger opposition (being at times torn myself), more recently I have come to view most defenders of our traditional teams and sporting models as little more than spoilt children sulking at being asked to share their favourite toys. In many cases, a loyalty to a particular side actually overrides any love of the wider sport and of its general health, which - as someone who loves Hull KR but loves the sport of rugby league over and above this - I find bemusing. I have known many a rugby league fan in the pub or on an internet forum air the view that they would rather see the sport die than see their own team merge with the so-called "enemy". Such hugely popular knee-jerk views must not be allowed easy airspace in the name of the much-loved British sporting trait of "passion". They are unhelpful and empty and must be fought at every turn.

There is - of course - a case to be made for 2 pro rugby league sides in Hull but it is not merely the retention of the status quo and of the Hull derby, rather it is the belief that both sides could organically move towards the 15K fanbase that will allow them to genuinely compete at the top level and thus justify their continued existence in practical (and not merely emotional) terms in any serious modern elite league. In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that this can happen (which I have yet to see), at some point common sense must usurp tradition and we must all "man up" and move on. And what really does this sport owe any of us in these heartland areas beyond representation at elite level by one self-sustainable, largely future-proof side? It owes us precisely nothing more.

Let me give a practical case in point of the overall futility of following a side like Hull KR, this being the career of Scott Taylor. Just a couple of years ago I watched with particular excitement as this young local lad emerged in our second row and developed the strongest leg drive of any young forward in the league, frequently requiring 3 or more opposition players to halt him as he carved up easy metres in the middle of the park. I watched him single-handedly destroy opposing packs whilst humbly acknowledging the traveling support that vociferously sang his name, running over to us at times, kissing the badge and doing all the things that fine young athletes who give their all week in-week out earn the right to do, all the while carrying himself with the poise, grace and composure befitting of the young face and future of the club. Scott was, to all intents and purposes, one of us. But what happened next was depressingly obvious and plays itself out in football and rugby league columns up and down the country pretty much every week. Shorn of a couple of big contracts (Leuluai and Finch - returning to NRL), the elite Wigan pounced, securing not only him but our outstanding Aussie stand-off Blake Green on - one can only assume - better contracts than we could offer either. Like many fans in similar positions I ask myself faced with this scenario what, ultimately, is the point of following this team? And I come up short of answers. Because Taylor and Green are not one-offs and nor are they results of mismanagement or some internal club fallout. They are endemic instances of players too good (long-term) by design for teams in the middle of the pack of any British sport that simply move up the hierarchy. With 1 team in Hull, however, they could still be plying their trade here - that they are not is merely 1 symptom of a sick system in need of a cure. And in some ways - as fervent fans enjoying our cross-town rivalry/in-house squabbling - we are also to blame.

So much negativity is spoken about mergers that I want to focus on some positives. For me, the idea of attending the KC Stadium for the inaugural game of the new merged team (presumably against Leeds or Bradford) simply gives me goose bumps. Picture the scene: 20,000 packed in, the big screen showing some old footage with a clever segue into the new team's logo (the colours presumably black and red) and some booming atmospherics across the PA as the new side - an amalgamation of local and world talent - run on, previously divided families and friends now joined together and cheering as one in embryonic fervour. This would be an unforgettable moment spoken of in local pubs and clubs for decades to come. And the old teams would not be forgotten. Retro jerseys would acknowledge previous triumphs as old folklores strengthen in the new era and the game revels in tales from its proud, ancient past. History can never be overwritten but I am about European rugby league making its own history; of mums and dads all across the elite landscape passing on to their kids a side that they can be proud of, that will compete for them and that they will never have to throw loose change into "Save our club" buckets for (only to do the same, again and again, year after year). And that people far removed from the old rugby league heartlands will have reason to have heard of.

Quite simply, we limit ourselves as a sport by too much deference to history and tradition by spreading ourselves too thin in our heartland regions. Whatever we may have previously thought, rugby league could not and will not conquer the world from Batley. Much further afield than the M62 corridor, the sporting public would have reason to have heard of a merged Hull side in a bigger, better, more financially viable and more intense elite competition. And they would pack into pubs, on occasion, to watch them. So what we lose in Hull by way of tradition (and what we have previously done can never be tarnished, never be deleted) we gain in a wider appreciation of our town and in the sport that we nurtured and then helped to kick on. And that is worth a million pointless Hull derbies of mediocre standard played out against a backdrop of indifference and financial ruin.

"Are you red-and-white or black-and-white?" I am neither. I'm simply a rugby league fan from Kingston-upon-Hull frustrated by our outdated sporting mechanisms and I want my modern team.

 

The answer that you give to your own question is the reason why you will never grasp the notion that mergers will never work in RL.

If in fantasy land the 2 Hulls merged then a huge amount of the fan base would probably be lost for ever as they would not want to see a joint side containing players from the rival club.

 

 

The good people of Nova Magazine in Hull have been kind enough to publish a piece I've written for their Christmas issue detailing why the Hull sides must merge and it can be read on the online version of the magazine via this link:

http://novamaghull.com/read/

Alternatively, I've copied-and-pasted it below for ease.

It was initially a good deal longer so I had to edit it quite significantly. I'll spare you the full unexpurgated version though as this abridged version is long enough I think.

Sure to provoke a bit of debate and doubtless not all calm and level-headed but that's fine - it's an emotive issue.

Cheers.

Why the Hull rugby league clubs must merge

Way back in 1995 a proposal was quickly drawn up and rubber-stamped that was set to change professional rugby league in Europe overnight and beyond recognition. The idea was simple - merge several small sides in order to pit them alongside more successful, cash-rich existing sides then add some new "expansion" teams in large untapped areas to form a franchised North American-style sports league to replace our old promotion and relegation based tiered model. The germ of this idea was the reasonable assertion that the old model was starting to creak and wasn't built for the modern era; that there were simply too many teams in too small an area spreading the sport's limited means too thinly. That the proposal was quickly crushed by a spirited uprising from the sport's fanbase increasingly looks less like a commendable display of people power and more like the latest in a very long line of bad luck stories to befall the sport on these shores. As rugby league in the Northern hemisphere currently withers on the vine (shorn of investment and even without a main sponsor for its flagship Super League competition), the initial sense of solidarity and victory emerging from the retention of the status quo back then now looks as hollow and damaging as any event in the history of UK sport. The lesson learnt: be careful what you wish for.

Let me place this view in some context. I am a long-standing Hull Kingston Rovers fan who grew up a stone's throw from their old Craven Park ground and first saw them play as a nipper back in the side's heyday of the early 1980s, remembers the days at the peak of both Hull clubs' dominance when the wrong answer to "Are you red-and-white or black-and-white?" in the school playground could earn you a Chinese burn and who has followed Rovers ever since. Furthermore, as a 21 year-old in 1995, I was amongst those who vehemently opposed the restructure, not far enough removed did we appear from the sport's most popular period of the 1970s and 1980s and not far enough were we into the post-Champions League glamour and high commerce that swept through all of European sport in the ensuing years for me to make real sense of it. Jack Walker had only just reignited a fondness for tradition by securing the Premier League title for his beloved Blackburn Rovers with heavy investment (that less than 20 years on, it should be noted, would barely get such a small market side into that league). There still seemed hope for small teams steeped in history run aground in the newer, harsher landscape and in short, I was not ready for change.

The fact of the matter, however, is that the 1995 plan - whilst clearly flawed in some areas - was ahead of its time and that the current rudderlessness, rift and acrimony in the European game (as I write this, 6 "rebel" club chairmen have walked away from Super League reconstruction talks) could all have been averted with a bit more planning, backbone and savvy public relations from the sport's leaders back then. What we need, quite plainly, are some mergers. In Cheshire, Calder, Cumbria (where there is not currently a Super League presence) and - sharp intake of breath - in Kingston-upon-Hull.

Put simply, Hull KR is no longer the same proposition that it was in 1980. And nor are teams like Widnes, Wakefield and Castleford. Back then, these and even smaller sides could quite easily compete at the top level of the game. Rugby league, like all of our sports (even football), was cash moderate and not far removed from amateurism. TV exposure was limited and as a pedigree player you could pit your wits against the very best and achieve everything you wanted within the sport from your small Northern outpost, in front of about 8,000 fans. Sure, Leeds and St Helens may have had more paying through their turnstiles but this rarely amounted to a tangible advantage. You could beat them. Rovers repeatedly did, to my little heart's content. These were simpler, more benign times. But what was around the corner - and what the Americans and Australians anticipated but we didn't - was a new era; a TV era, where money talked, big was beautiful and baffling phenomenon like "image rights" became everyday jargon. American football in particular is run according to the oft-quoted maxim of "fatcat Republicans [team owners] voting socialist". These are men moneyed from the free market who understand that the commerce of sport is quite different; that for longevity of fan interest, success must not be allowed to breed success, that some sides will have larger fan bases than others (and thus be more resistant to financial meltdown during lean periods) and that any side's fanbase would crumble into dust in time if they were seen to not be genuinely competitive in the long-run. So a form of "capitalist socialism" has emerged. Not all can play, but those invited (and thus passing strict criteria that disqualify most) will play on an even playing field. And it is something that Australian rugby league tuned into in the late 1990s when it set about a raising of standards and tightening of club finances within its game that necessitated the mergers of some smaller sides, including the legendary St George and Western Suburbs outfits. There was dissent back then, of course, but in the NRL there is not currently disharmony and disenchantment. There is instead a massive (and growing) TV audience, a constantly rising salary cap and likely expansion into new regions. You do the math, as the Yanks say.

Back to our game, and back a bit in time. In 1993 a huge event took place within rugby league. Its leading young English player - a Featherstone lad named Paul Newlove - did the unthinkable and broke the hearts of that tiny former mining village and its proud rugby league legacy by ditching Featherstone Rovers for the bright lights of Bradford Northern. With hindsight, this now plays out like a watershed moment for the sport. Sure, players had always come and gone - some lured by big bucks and the empty promises of wealthy chairmen - but this seemed different somehow. Newlove's move was attuned to an invisible new force and a rejection of the very idea of a club like Featherstone Rovers competing at the top level in the modern era. Newlove's heart was with Featherstone but put simply, he could achieve more with Bradford. Such moves up the hierarchy are of course now commonplace in both football and rugby league but much less so then. Even before this, at Hull KR our own prodigal son Anthony Sullivan - not only our brightest hope but the son of a former great cast into local mythology by his tragic early death to cancer soon after his career ended; our emotional link to the recent glorious past, no less - did the same by leaving for St Helens as his spiritual club - now fallen on hard times - crumbled slowly towards administration and near extinction. These were new times. This was Year Zero for British sport. The big sides were pulling away and our elite professional levels needed a smaller number of newer, shinier franchises in order to keep up with them, not the same swathe of small traditional shoestring-budget outfits. But we ploughed on as we were, either through ignorance, hope or some naive middle ground.

And of course, this was not the end for Hull KR. Kept afloat by a hardcore of around 2,000 fans at semi-professional level, the club found its saviour in current wealthy chairman Neil Hudgell, who kick-started a revolution in the early "Noughties" leading to the club's current position in the mid-ranks of the sport's professional elite. Hudgell is a great asset not only to the club but to the wider game of rugby league, underwriting as he has done big personal losses to bring some calibre players and some good times back to MS3 Craven Park. But the question is whether Hudgell's money could have been better spent. He himself acknowledges that making Hull KR competitive comes with a huge price tag. Many years ago he set the club's fans the target of numbering 10,000 in order to make the club break even financially at maximum salary cap spend. Despite several years of play-off qualification, we haven't pushed past 8K and frankly don't look like doing so, particularly as Hudgell's patience wanes and he cuts his losses by moving - quite understandably - ever further away from said full cap spend. Hudgell is wealthy but he has limits and "achieving more with less" is the current maxim that runs through the majority of his comments. And yet in sport - like anything else in a harsh capitalist landscape - you get what you pay for. Anyone who has been to MS3 Craven Park in recent times will tell you that the fans are fervent and loyal and the East Stand makes a lot of noise. But the brutal fact of the matter is that there are just not enough of us for the club to be anywhere near self-sustainable and competitive at Super League level in tandem, as there are not enough of these same fans at Widnes, Wakefield and Castleford.

Furthermore, Hudgell won't be here forever and when he goes, who replaces him? Only a few months ago the man himself made a very honest assertion of how difficult it is to attract significant investment in Hull KR. [paraphrasing here] "What we are doing" he said "is scouring Hull for businesses that are open to investing in Hull KR". Now, consider that statement more closely and you get to the crux of the problem with the current Super League structure. Not just a search limited to businesses in the City of Hull - modest in size and as economically challenged right now as any in the North of England - but limited to approximately half of those. It is a staggering comment and reinforces what anyone with even a modest grasp of sporting finance knows - that this club is simply a labour of love. Admirable and romantic but ultimately perennially skating on thin ice and offering little of genuine value to the elite league that accommodates it. Let me be clear that this is not a slight on the club or any of its ardent, die-hard fans. It is simply a condemnation of a system that asks Hull KR and teams like us to punch above our weight year after year and in the face of increasing hardship and lessening hope. It is a system that is frankly unsustainable. The sport needed mergers in 1995 to avoid hitting the choppy waters we now find ourselves adrift in. We now need them simply to stay afloat.

Across the river from Hull KR's East Hull enclave, Adam Pearson - a man who cut his sporting entrepreneurial teeth as marketing guru for Leeds United - is in charge of the ambiguously named Hull FC (a branding disaster dating back to pre-football/rugby split 1865 that must surely not be lost on him). They are bigger than my team Hull KR. But only just. At present a hardcore of around 11,000 fans ensure that they perennially dream (only slightly wishfully) of ruling the Super League roost. But it should be noted that their recent steady demise (both in fan numbers and on-field achievement) has coincided with the re-emergence of Rovers, proving that even in a town steeped in rugby league tradition like Hull there are a limited number of paying customers (and also giving the lie to the oft voiced anti-merger opinion that fans do not and will not change allegiance - fans clearly moved from Rovers to FC in the early Noughties and there is nothing unusual or surprising about this). Put simply, when both FC and Rovers come face-to-face with the 18K of Leeds, the 16K of St Helens and Wigan and the 15K of Bradford, they should not be gallantly punching above their weight but rather coming together, putting aside previous differences and making a conjoined fist of presenting the very best that Hull rugby league has to offer the world. The enemy is at the gates but we continue to squabble amongst ourselves.

The problem with any merger discussion is that opposition to such plans rarely gets past a base emotional level as screams of "Never!" and "Tradition!" drown out the much calmer, more level-headed NRL-type restructure arguments. Whilst I understand that this is an emotive issue and have in the past been sympathetic to merger opposition (being at times torn myself), more recently I have come to view most defenders of our traditional teams and sporting models as little more than spoilt children sulking at being asked to share their favourite toys. In many cases, a loyalty to a particular side actually overrides any love of the wider sport and of its general health, which - as someone who loves Hull KR but loves the sport of rugby league over and above this - I find bemusing. I have known many a rugby league fan in the pub or on an internet forum air the view that they would rather see the sport die than see their own team merge with the so-called "enemy". Such hugely popular knee-jerk views must not be allowed easy airspace in the name of the much-loved British sporting trait of "passion". They are unhelpful and empty and must be fought at every turn.

There is - of course - a case to be made for 2 pro rugby league sides in Hull but it is not merely the retention of the status quo and of the Hull derby, rather it is the belief that both sides could organically move towards the 15K fanbase that will allow them to genuinely compete at the top level and thus justify their continued existence in practical (and not merely emotional) terms in any serious modern elite league. In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that this can happen (which I have yet to see), at some point common sense must usurp tradition and we must all "man up" and move on. And what really does this sport owe any of us in these heartland areas beyond representation at elite level by one self-sustainable, largely future-proof side? It owes us precisely nothing more.

Let me give a practical case in point of the overall futility of following a side like Hull KR, this being the career of Scott Taylor. Just a couple of years ago I watched with particular excitement as this young local lad emerged in our second row and developed the strongest leg drive of any young forward in the league, frequently requiring 3 or more opposition players to halt him as he carved up easy metres in the middle of the park. I watched him single-handedly destroy opposing packs whilst humbly acknowledging the traveling support that vociferously sang his name, running over to us at times, kissing the badge and doing all the things that fine young athletes who give their all week in-week out earn the right to do, all the while carrying himself with the poise, grace and composure befitting of the young face and future of the club. Scott was, to all intents and purposes, one of us. But what happened next was depressingly obvious and plays itself out in football and rugby league columns up and down the country pretty much every week. Shorn of a couple of big contracts (Leuluai and Finch - returning to NRL), the elite Wigan pounced, securing not only him but our outstanding Aussie stand-off Blake Green on - one can only assume - better contracts than we could offer either. Like many fans in similar positions I ask myself faced with this scenario what, ultimately, is the point of following this team? And I come up short of answers. Because Taylor and Green are not one-offs and nor are they results of mismanagement or some internal club fallout. They are endemic instances of players too good (long-term) by design for teams in the middle of the pack of any British sport that simply move up the hierarchy. With 1 team in Hull, however, they could still be plying their trade here - that they are not is merely 1 symptom of a sick system in need of a cure. And in some ways - as fervent fans enjoying our cross-town rivalry/in-house squabbling - we are also to blame.

So much negativity is spoken about mergers that I want to focus on some positives. For me, the idea of attending the KC Stadium for the inaugural game of the new merged team (presumably against Leeds or Bradford) simply gives me goose bumps. Picture the scene: 20,000 packed in, the big screen showing some old footage with a clever segue into the new team's logo (the colours presumably black and red) and some booming atmospherics across the PA as the new side - an amalgamation of local and world talent - run on, previously divided families and friends now joined together and cheering as one in embryonic fervour. This would be an unforgettable moment spoken of in local pubs and clubs for decades to come. And the old teams would not be forgotten. Retro jerseys would acknowledge previous triumphs as old folklores strengthen in the new era and the game revels in tales from its proud, ancient past. History can never be overwritten but I am about European rugby league making its own history; of mums and dads all across the elite landscape passing on to their kids a side that they can be proud of, that will compete for them and that they will never have to throw loose change into "Save our club" buckets for (only to do the same, again and again, year after year). And that people far removed from the old rugby league heartlands will have reason to have heard of.

Quite simply, we limit ourselves as a sport by too much deference to history and tradition by spreading ourselves too thin in our heartland regions. Whatever we may have previously thought, rugby league could not and will not conquer the world from Batley. Much further afield than the M62 corridor, the sporting public would have reason to have heard of a merged Hull side in a bigger, better, more financially viable and more intense elite competition. And they would pack into pubs, on occasion, to watch them. So what we lose in Hull by way of tradition (and what we have previously done can never be tarnished, never be deleted) we gain in a wider appreciation of our town and in the sport that we nurtured and then helped to kick on. And that is worth a million pointless Hull derbies of mediocre standard played out against a backdrop of indifference and financial ruin.

"Are you red-and-white or black-and-white?" I am neither. I'm simply a rugby league fan from Kingston-upon-Hull frustrated by our outdated sporting mechanisms and I want my modern team.

 

 

Well i can see sense in it mate, and not just in Hull, But then i am known for wanting the game to thrive and grow and produce players that clubs can afford to keep .

You know the story well enough, ( i'll jack it in first ) which is exactly what more and more fans have been doing for years now without the mergers, Talk about fidling while Rome burns, some people are actually in favor of feeding the fire.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You cannot compare the British sporting market to that in the us until the British sports start to have shorter seasons with less overlap and there is a full league of feeder teams to provide players for a draft (like the ncaa)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One point of note is that hull were almost the top team in super league with crowds to match....then hkr got promoted!

Maybe a relegation would have the same effect?

Hkr should continue as a feeder club, hkr should run the Hull academy and training camp in their stadium. ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One point of note is that hull were almost the top team in super league with crowds to match....then hkr got promoted!

Maybe a relegation would have the same effect?

Hkr should continue as a feeder club, hkr should run the Hull academy and training camp in their stadium. ...

Light the blue touchpaper and retire...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You cannot compare the British sporting market to that in the us until the British sports start to have shorter seasons with less overlap and there is a full league of feeder teams to provide players for a draft (like the ncaa)

You also can't compare the British sporting market to small regional one, either, which is more to the point. Especially when that region is dominated by a sporting behemoth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought it was a good article. I've seen nothing more than anecdote to suggest that "whole swathes" of the current fan base would walk away. I think a few people would, but the majority wouldn't, and the increased competitiveness of the new team would probably bring in new fans and turn the occasionals into regulars.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought it was a good article. I've seen nothing more than anecdote to suggest that "whole swathes" of the current fan base would walk away. I think a few people would, but the majority wouldn't, and the increased competitiveness of the new team would probably bring in new fans and turn the occasionals into regulars.

Why would the new team be more competitive? Both teams already spend up to the cap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why would the new team be more competitive? Both teams already spend up to the cap.

 

 Paying players top wages is not what makes great clubs.

 

Its what you can afford behind the scenes after you have paid the players wages.

 

Also paying the cap doesn't mean you have the best available, it could mean you are paying over the odds for mediocre players.

 

 

As for merger, that's up to the clubs involved.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If anyone was going to write an article on the state of the game and what was required to try to fix it,then DSK has  hit the nail on the head. Despite some of the comments in regard to his post,some of the clubs are sailing close to the wind and  will find no financial backer riding to the rescue.So what's the choice? Answer.There isn't one, only amalgamation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Next time you're in the area, ask for directions to Calder. Tell us what it's like afterwards, I don't know anyone who has ever been there. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow what a superb article, you show great understanding of what the original SL blueprint was intended to do for the game and how failing to implement it has let British RL down.   Unfortunately it's clear from some of the responses that there are still many people around who don't understand how the world of sports has moved on thanks to the impact of television.

 

Thanks to TV money there's far more money in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL than there was years ago.  The same is true of NCAA football and basketball too, though in their case instead of going to players it goes into facilities, coaches' salaries, etc.  The same process happened in Aussie Rules football and Aussie RL and in British soccer and RU too.   British RL today faces the same simple choice it faced in 1995, if it's not too late to make now: follow the same path or fall further and further behind over time and eventually fail.

 

In the early '90s Wigan was a full-time elite team, and SL was about creating a whole league of such full-time elite teams comparable to the FA Premiership.  They could and should have done that in 1995 before RU went pro but they backed down instead.  In the meantime RU has taken a big chunk of the media coverage, TV and sponsorship money which might have been RL's if they'd followed the original SL blueprint when it was put before them.

 

As I've said on another thread, big time, national sports deserve national coverage and big-money sponsorships, not small-time regional ones.  Whether British RL still has time to make that transition or has left it too late is hard to say, but it might well be the latter.

 

The vaunted RU competition you so waffle about has teams in Northampton, Sale, Barnet, Worcester, Gloucester, Reading. these are not much bigger than if they are indeed bigger than Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and are  smaller than Sheffield, Doncaster, York or Huddersfield. It's unions ability to attract investors from the successful business class spawned at the public schools and with a built in loyalty to that game that differentiates their success from ours,not the size of the towns/Cities who are mebers of the league.

 

There is some evidence in the number of well heeled investors slowly entering RL that we might be stemming the tide of finance away from RU.I hope so. 

 

Comparison with the NFL and the premier league is pointless. The USA has many more large cities than the UK and has no soccer competiton of any note. There is just not the same amount of cities absent of soccer competiton in this country to move to the mega franchise future you propose. We should stick with our strengths in the smaller communities where we dominate. Our biggest team is in Wigan or maybe Leeds and how big is Wigan. not big enough to support your super franchise future.Leeds is next and they are well outdrawn by a third rate soccer team. After that it's all downhill in terms of catchment size but if we keep our business model rooted on the smaller markets that we dominate we can succeed going forward. Mega franhises have been long the province of soccer and we cannot and should not try to emulate them. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The vaunted RU competition you so waffle about has teams in Northampton, Sale, Barnet, Worcester, Gloucester, Reading. these are not much bigger than if they are indeed bigger than Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and are  smaller than Sheffield, Doncaster, York or Huddersfield. It's unions ability to attract investors from the successful business class spawned at the public schools and with a built in loyalty to that game that differentiates their success from ours,not the size of the towns/Cities who are mebers of the league.

 

There is some evidence in the number of well heeled investors slowly entering RL that we might be stemming the tide of finance away from RU.I hope so. 

 

Comparison with the NFL and the premier league is pointless. The USA has many more large cities than the UK and has no soccer competiton of any note. There is just not the same amount of cities absent of soccer competiton in this country to move to the mega franchise future you propose. We should stick with our strengths in the smaller communities where we dominate. Our biggest team is in Wigan or maybe Leeds and how big is Wigan. not big enough to support your super franchise future.Leeds is next and they are well outdrawn by a third rate soccer team. After that it's all downhill in terms of catchment size but if we keep our business model rooted on the smaller markets that we dominate we can succeed going forward. Mega franhises have been long the province of soccer and we cannot and should not try to emulate them. 

 

Your comparison to RU is flawed. Like SL, the RU Premiership has teams in a mix of places of various sizes but there the comparison ends. There's only one of those RU teams in a place with less than 100,000 people (Bath) compared to three in SL (Castleford, Wakefield and Widnes). You can see the geographic spread of their teams at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Premiership_%28rugby_union%29, and as you can see they're not all down south but spread up and down England with four London teams. A comparable map for SL would show all but two of the teams along the M62.

 

Below the Premiership they have eight other divisions in four tiers: the Championship, National League 1, National League 2 North, National League 2 South, National League 3 North, National League 3 Midlands, National League 3 South East and National League 3 South West. They've put all that in place since they accepted a pro game less than 20 years ago. By comparison RL has stood still.

The comparison to the NFL, Premier League and others is far from pointless. With pretty much every new contract, they keep getting more money for their TV rights than before, whereas the current SL deal pays barely more than the original one seventeen years ago. The RU rights have likewise gone up ― BT Vision is paying them £125 million for three years, compared to Sky's deal with SL paying £90 million over five years. That means they're getting more than twice as much per year for their rights as SL is ― £41.66 million compared to £18 million. Where SL struggles to find a sponsor willing to pay much money, they have £20 million over four years from Aviva.

Your point about not having many big teams is exactly what I was getting at. Failing to create those super teams in 1996 has cost British RL millions of pounds in lost income over the years. A so-called "Super League" of small teams isn't worth nearly as much to sky and BT as the genuine Super League of big teams they were supposed to create would have been. Keeping to the smaller markets is a recipe for falling further and further behind soccer and RU in both profile and commercial income.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Paying players top wages is not what makes great clubs.

 

Its what you can afford behind the scenes after you have paid the players wages.

 

Also paying the cap doesn't mean you have the best available, it could mean you are paying over the odds for mediocre players.

 

Indeed.

 

For me the models have to be Leeds and Wigan both marked out by quality junior set ups  formed one after the other in the early 2,000's. The Hull academies have already been mooted for merger, and to try to emulate the most successful SL clubs has to be considered. As you say it's their choice.

 

I have over the years also got a flavour of the best imports wanting to go to Leeds and Wigan (Saints and Wire) before they'd ever consider Hull. Now full salary cap or not Willy Manu prefers Saints, Scott Taylor to Wigan, Tom Briscoe to Leeds, Hull a nursery for other clubs.

 

The city can go on spending what £3.6M on players to produce mediocre performances, never challenge for trophies, and be a production line for the big four. They can open a third club if they all want to do that and have six derbies a year, after all derbies are now often suggested as the way to rescue London RL.  

 

Last season Hudgell was pondering why he was bothering with Rovers, whilst the Hull team didn't bother at all at Fartown.

 

Apparently it's the fans who don't want change, who prefer tradition to success, until their club drops out of SL of course (unthinkable - well they were never original members were they?) and they mostly stay at home or consider popping down to watch Hull City who not so long ago were from a game RL apparently was stronger than in Hull.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Next time you're in the area, ask for directions to Calder. Tell us what it's like afterwards, I don't know anyone who has ever been there. 

 

I've been there. It's a river and canal system that links Castleford to Wakefield. These are the principle towns in the Wakefield MDC which

 

1. Boasts a population of 326,000 people with a high density of RL fans and no serious soccer competition

2. Can already put up to 20,000 bums on seats at their three pro RL clubs in good times

3. Produce quality players at the level giants Leeds and Wigan produce players

4. Could have the backing of WMDC for a super stadium to house all these resources but

 

5. Choose to maintain three small clubs who the council won't back for a quality stadia

6. Run club finances that create unmanageable debts

7. Lose most of the best players to bigger clubs

8. Manage to halve the potential paying audience by never getting near winning anything and at times being in a lower division.

 

However this is apparently what "The fans" want. C'est la vie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Paying players top wages is not what makes great clubs.

Its what you can afford behind the scenes after you have paid the players wages.

Also paying the cap doesn't mean you have the best available, it could mean you are paying over the odds for mediocre players.

As for merger, that's up to the clubs involved.

I know.

But what could a merged club offer that Hull FC on their own can't at the moment? What have Hull KR got that we'd want?

I literally don't see the point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm intrigued to know why Paul Newlove leaving Featherstone had such a profound effect on you.

 

You must have been the only person in the world that thought he'd stay at one club, the bloke was far too good to stay with Featherstone, just like his dad.

 

Not sure what the journey was like from there to this insane ramble, but I imagine it wasn't pleasant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.



League Express - Mon 10th April 2017

Rugby League World - April 2017