125 YEARS AND STILL NO KNIGHTHOOD
August 29th, 1995, more than one hundred and twenty-five years ago, our great game was born.
We broke our shackles that day and established the greatest game of all, Rugby League Football, yet we are still waiting for a Rugby League Knight of the Realm.
Not for lack of worthy candidates. There are plenty to choose from.
Other sports have loads of Knights; only Rugby League, darts, snooker, ten-pin bowling and crown-green bowls have none.
Three times I have written to Buckingham Palace to plead our case. In 2015 I wrote, in 2017, and in February this year I wrote again. I got a reply in 2015. On the last two occasions – nothing.
Six living legends of Rugby League I have pot forward: Billy Boston MBE, Neil Fox MBE, Johnny Whiteley MBE, Alex Murphy OBE, David Oxley CBE and Maurice Lindsay. I am sure that any one of these deserves a knighthood for services to our great game. It is time Ralph Rimmer and Robert Elstone pushed this forward.
Billy Cunliffe, Wigan
SUPER LEAGUE’S BAD DEAL
Should the news that Super League has done a sponsorship deal with Papa John’s Pizza, for £0,000.00 plus free pizzas to the clubs worry us, or is it another, ‘Rugby League fans are always moaning’, non-story?
I am alarmed.
Of course, any seasoned sales professional has a few deals best forgotten. A coach will tell you that players learn more from losing than from winning and the same is true for sales professionals. Duff deals do accelerate your learning.
Should we not be too hard then on Rhodri Jones, Chief Commercial Officer at Super League and his boss, Robert Elstone, who presumably signed off on this deal. A common problem in sales is the fear of asking too high, worried that if they pitch too high and lose the deal their credibility will be damaged.
In practice, that almost never happens. The wrong behaviour is so prevalent that Harvard Business School ran tests which showed that salespeople often play safe by asking too low a price.
There are ways to combat it, the bluntest being always to quote a figure you believe unattainable. It is an uncomfortable thing to do at times but, as an antidote, it is super effective.
We can reasonably assume that Rhodri did not ask high. If he had started the negotiation at, say £300.000.00 (plus the pizzas), he could not have given that much ground without losing all credibility. So, to accept and put forward to his boss a deal at £0.00 (plus pizzas) he cannot have asked for much money in the first place.
Result? The advertiser cannot even have covered the cost of Rhodri’s time doing the deal, so in effect, Super League will be paying towards the cost of the ‘free’ pizzas delivered to their clubs.
You might say, so what? It’s a minor deal. Okay, fair enough, it is not as bad as the Stobart deal. But I am alarmed because you need your salespeople always to ask high. If you ask high, you might get. If you ask low, you are certain not to get much.
Sensible Rugby League fans now know that two of the people negotiating a new TV contract with Sky, sometimes (and possibly always) set themselves conservative targets.
There is other evidence to back this.
Plenty of coverage in the press over the last two years has pointed to a reduced future TV pay-out for Super League clubs, and those in lower leagues. Am I the only one who thinks the management team at Sky also read this stuff?
Surely, if Elstone was going for an ambitious deal, he would have been be leaking stories about clubs expecting to treble their TV revenue.
That is not as implausible an idea as it may seem. TV advertising revenue may be dropping, but there are tens of thousands of Rugby League fans paying £50 to £80 a month to Sky, when you can get Netflix for less than a tenner.
Sky TV’s management team will not want its high-value subscribers being lost to low-cost providers. The minute Sky drops Rugby League, I shall drop my Sky deal in its entirety. Sky no longer has a monopoly on football but to date it does on Rugby League.
My worry is that the people negotiating on behalf of Rugby League have already lost, defeated before they set foot in the Sky Sports offices. If I were CEO of Super League, I would have rejected the Papa John’s deal. There are no mitigating circumstances that justify it. None!
Robert Elstone should demand better deals from his team. A salesperson who lets the product go cheaply is in the wrong job.
Compare and contrast this with Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of the Rugby League World Cup. Jon has already demonstrated ambition by getting the World Cup draw conducted by Prince Harry, in Buckingham Palace. He is already able to say publicly that the first game, England v Samoa at Newcastle will be a full house. Such actions engender confidence in the wider Rugby League audience.
This pizza deal has been, for me, the jaw-dropping moment. No exaggeration! I fear for the future of the game, given that so much is riding on negotiations with Sky.
Stuart Glendinning, Northwich
I am a massive fan of Tommy Makinson.
He is the best winger in Super League by a country mile and one of the best in both hemispheres. But to have his foul play charge reduced on his past record is a joke. It’s like giving a lesser sentence to a person who shoots someone else, just because they have never done that before.
The evidence was there for everybody to see during the match.
If Liam Watts had grabbed Makinson in the same way he would have been given a straight eight-match ban, as would any player from the likes of Hull KR, Salford, Huddersfield, Hull, Castleford, Catalans and Wakefield.
The same thing happened about four seasons ago when Sean O’Loughlin committed one of the worst high tackles I have seen against Wakefield. He too received no penalty afterwards due to his past record.
The disciplinary panel members are not fit to do their job. They bottled it.
No ‘One rule for the haves’ and another for the rest, please. Punishment should be based on the offence, not on who you are and your past record.
N Wilders, Knottingley
IN SUPPORT OF LOCAL RADIO
Why on earth is Paul Kirby expecting decent coverage of our game on Radio 4’s sports output? (Mailbag, 24 August).
Radio 4 caters for Middle England, the vast majority of whose audience from Berwick, Basingstoke and Bognor to Bude wouldn’t know a play-the-ball from a policeman’s’ ball. They cater for people who, despite his doubts, probably do have more interest in and knowledge of women’s golf than Rugby League.
Do yourself a favour, Paul, stick with the BBC but tune in to local radio. Here you will find coverage of our sport that would have been beyond the wildest dreams of us League fans in the dim and distant past. Just as the BBC’s television coverage has improved year on year, likewise local radio.
My own station, Radio Merseyside, provides extensive coverage throughout the week, including up-to-date news items, an hour-long magazine programme featuring all aspects and excellent match commentaries of Saints, Widnes and Wire matches, supported by expert and eloquent guest summarisers. Radio Manchester, with more clubs to cover, is even better.
I regularly listen to live match commentaries on other BBC local stations such as Humberside, Leeds, Cumbria, York and even London and I’d expect their weekly output to be equally comprehensive.
I’m sure any letters of complaint to Radio 4 would hit the nearest waste-paper basket with all the speed and accuracy of a Luke Gale drop-goal.
League fans need to support these local radio stations, so come and join us, Paul, ditch Radio 4 and forget Garry Richardson, whoever he is!
Les Graham, Liverpool
When is Rugby league going to wake up and smell a significant injustice?
Castleford’s Danny Richardson was clearly seen being kicked on the ground by Wigan’s Jackson Hastings after a very dubious tackle-cum-cuddle.
Castleford’s Millington was head-butted by Wigan’s Smithies in clear view of everyone.
Two further crusher tackles were made on Castleford players, with the only the last one resulting in a yellow card.
So all Super League players now know they can cheat and play dirty, with no retribution during the match!
I realise that the game is fast moving and the man in the middle can get tired, and can’t see everything. But what are the fourth referee and the touch judges doing?
Come on Super League, you are in danger of losing credibility and at this rate you certainly won’t be around in another 125 years.
Deryck Ryall, Neston, Cheshire
PENALISE THE TEAMS
For an offence in the match against Huddersfield, Ben Murdoch-Masila spent ten minutes in the sin-bin and was later awarded a two-match suspension.
If that kind of offence happens again, why not penalise the player’s team by a deduction of (say) one point?
Malcolm Haigh, Huddersfield
This weekend’s fixtures were listed as round 10, but I noticed that Catalans, for example, had only played seven games, the most any team had played was eight.
And because of positive Covid tests the Dragons will be out of action for two weekends and then they’ve got to fit in the Challenge Cup.
Given the turmoil of this year, theirs will surely not be an isolated set of circumstances.
So should not those in charge seriously think about ending the season after 20 home and away games and forgo a set of play offs?
And perhaps have a Duckworth-Lewis type calculation ready (I’m loath to call it an algorithm) to determine a League leader if the 20 games don’t get played?
David Taylor, Kendal
SPECIAL GAME, SPECIAL PEOPLE
I would like to thank friends, players and ex-players of Workington Town, and legends of the wider game, for sending 80th birthday videos to our Dad, Joe Hill.
Dad is a lifelong Town fan and absolutely loves Rugby League. For him to get greetings from the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Paul Sculthorpe, Robbie Hunter Paul, Brian Noble, Phil Veivers and Fuifui Moimoi, to name just a few, as well as ex Town greats Paul Charlton, Billy Pattinson, Boxer Walker, Ian McCorquodale, Brad Hepi, James Pickering, Peter Riley and the current Town players and coach, Chris Thorman, really brings home to us what an amazing game and people we have in Rugby League.
Special mention must also go to Anne Marie Hill and Helen McDowell, without whose input none of this would have been possible.
From all our family, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Dave Hill and family, Workington, Cumbria
SCRUMS NOW AND THEN
Recent letters about whether or not to do away with scrums have been interesting, with valid points made on both sides.
I would keep scrums, but the game has changed and in the current format they are a waste of time. Howls from the stands of “feeding” are long past.
Speeding up the game is one thing, but being fast per se is not always better. How about thinking outside the box on how to restart the game? For example:
Referee places ball where scrum is to be formed.
Forwards pack down as normal.
Team `A’ has feed and on whistle, hooker strikes ball through scrum.
Team `B’ cannot strike ball.
Team `A’ scrum-half is free so can stand behind scrum.
As now, players cannot break away until ball is clear. The more thinking coach and maverick player may add a move.
Oh, for the days of Derek Fox, running away from the scrum without the ball, only for Paul Lyman to pick it up and go blind, leaving defenders flat-footed as he barged over from ten yards out. Classic!
Steve Lancaster, Featherstone.
PAY DAY NOTES
“Pay has never been on a specific date there. It’s always two days late or thereabouts…”
That from Gareth O’Brien, of the much-heralded entrants to Super League, Toronto Wolfpack, as quoted in Rugby League Express, 17th August edition.
In the August 24th edition, a line read: “I’ve been paid every month, on time and without having to remind anyone.” That was Duane Straugheir of Hunslet RLFC, a club denied entry to Super League.
Bryan Smith, Leeds
THE WHYS AND FAIR WAYS
Why were the Wigan v Warrington, Salford v St Helens and Leeds v Hull KR Challenge Cup games called off?
There was no reason why they could not have been played at a later date.
The reason for calling off the Castleford, Wakefield, Hull FC and Catalans Cup games was that their lower leagues opponent clubs have to finish their seasons early.
It was not the fault of the clubs concerned, yet they still have to play another match now, to get to the next round, while the six clubs l mentioned at the start get a bye into the quarter-finals. It stinks.
A fairer way would have been to play those cancelled games as well. The three highest scoring losers could then have gone through to make up the eight quarter-finalists.
That way, every quarter-finalist team would have played a match to qualify.
Finally, Tommy Makinson’s five-match ban is a joke, and an insult to the Bradford Bulls player who received an eight-match ban for the same offence.
G Dawson, Castleford