It will be a relief for many, if not everyone within rugby league, that what feels like the longest-running saga in the sport’s recent history is finally approaching some sort of conclusion, amicable or not. Yet the news of next week’s EGM to settle the league structure for 2019 has not come without a surprise or two – namely the parties who will vote on the matter.
55 votes can be cast, with 48 coming from the professional game. That, of course, is no surprise. The other seven? From key components of the amateur game such as BARLA and Schools Rugby League.
Whether those entities should have a say in the long-term future of the professional game is probably a debate for another day – or in this case, another article. Expect plenty of soundbites and opinions from people all across the sport about that as next Friday’s meeting nears.
But what’s disappointing is that if the amateur game is having a say in the direction of the professional game, should the most important aspect of professional rugby league be allowed to have some input too?
Clearly, the clubs have been discussing this issue for almost a year, involved in meeting after meeting which has felt never-ending for fans – so goodness knows what it’s been like for those sat around the tables debating until the cows come home.
But what about the sport’s players, headed up by the newly-revived Rugby League Players’ Association? Aren’t they now entitled to have at least one vote in this situation so the players can have the one thing they have always lacked: a voice in the direction of the game?
There are, inevitably, many things Australian rugby league does differently to ourselves. Some are good, some are bad – but what undoubtedly falls into the former category is how the NRL and the general game in Australia lets its players not only have their say on current issues within the sport, but be allowed to make a difference with those opinions, too.
Garreth Carvell and the RLPA have done a tremendous job in revitalising the union in this country over the past 12 months or so. They would surely be honest enough to admit there is still much more than can be done, but what is clear is that the sport’s players now have a union they can trust, and who can give them a true voice.
Would it have been so detrimental for the RFL to allow the union to have one singular vote, taking it up to 56, next week? The reasoning behind the community game having seven votes is that they are part of the RFL’s Council – but in such exceptional and extraordinary circumstances, it would not have been unreasonable to let the players join on an interim basis, surely?
The union could have contacted its members in the intervening period between the meeting being called and it taking place, asking them to simply vote on the proposal individually with the understanding that whichever verdict gained a majority among the players, they would be informed and that would be how the RLPA voted, on behalf of its players, at Council.
Rugby league is blessed with some of the most intelligent and thought-provoking sportspeople around. It’s a shame they are being denied the chance to share their views on what really matters – while other entities get their say all the while without putting their bodies on the line for our entertainment like they do each and every week.
Without the players, rugby league is nothing. Maybe it’s fair that, with a union now established and in place, they get the voice they actually deserve next week.