League Express Mailbag – Monday 21 June


In response to Tony Cunningham’s letter titled ‘It’s a Man’s Game’ (Mailbag, 14 June), in which he was unhappy with the word ‘Men’s’ ahead of the Challenge Cup Final title on the BBC.

Firstly, Tony, we have two competitions for the Challenge Cup, the men’s and the women’s. Therefore, it makes total sense to place the word ‘men’s’ before the title, so that pundits know which sport is televised. It’s not pedantic behaviour, it’s factual.

I understand that back in the day Rugby League was largely a man’s world. But, surely, you want to see the game grow. Surely, you want our game to have more coverage. Surely, this can happen even quicker if we invite more women to our games.

Furthermore, your claim that “95 percent of the interest in the sport is derived from the traditional male perspective” is absolutely absurd. That’s five women for every 95 men.

The last game I attended (Castleford v Hull at Wheldon Lane – Thursday, 10th June) clearly didn’t reflect that obscene statistic. I stood next to my sister surrounded by daughters, mothers and grandmothers.

I agree that this was not equal to the male ratio, but it was significantly better than 95%.

Rugby League has always made great headway with development. We had the first black man to play for Great Britain (Roy Francis); we had the first black captain for Great Britain in any sport (Clive Sullivan); we had the first black coach (Roy Francis, again); and, some day, when the time is right, we’ll have the first female coach, because that’s what our sport does – it wins the race to be first.

In addition, as the father of two young daughters, I can’t wait to stand or sit next to them and watch the sport I love. I can’t wait to see them shift the gender balance. I just can’t wait.

Moreover, the irony of you letter wasn’t lost as it was published in an edition that featured an article titled: ’21 years that transformed Women’s Rugby League. I’m glad this newspaper inserted the word ‘women’s’. We wouldn’t want to confuse the traditional male audience.

Overall, your toxic ideology will have inevitable consequences for our sport as it reduces inclusivity. We need all ages and genders to love our sport to avoid extinction.

You’re right when you stated that our sport has “scant enough coverage”.

So why not encourage better coverage by inviting more ladies to the party that is Rugby League?

Luke Vernon, Castleford



Tony Cunningham (Mailbag, June 14) wrote about the requirement to state ‘Men’s’ ahead of the Challenge Cup semi-final coverage on the BBC. I would expect a woman like Tony to be more supportive of women playing the sport.

She forgot to mention her gender on her letter to League Express, but here we are, midway through the 21st century, making sweeping and outdated generalisations that are increasingly out of step with society.

I assume Tony is short for Antonia, but wouldn’t it be sexist of me if I have somehow caused offence!

Andy Preston, Ilford



What a depressing read last week’s letters page was!

Bill Anderson suggested that players taking the knee is divisive. Rugby League has a proud heritage in respect of black players, he wrote.

He obviously hasn’t watched Jason Robinson’s recent documentary on Sky, in which he reveals the level of racial abuse he endured as a player. It was so bad that his mother, a white Scots woman, stopped attending matches.

As a fellow Wiganer, Anderson also chooses to forget the abuse experienced by some of our greatest past players – Billy Boston, Ellery Hanley, Martin Offiah – all of them black. If it takes the grotesque murder of an American to highlight racial discrimination in society, I welcome taking the knee. Surely it is worth thirteen seconds before a game to remind ourselves that discrimination in whatever form has no place in Rugby League.

Tony Cunningham objects to the word ‘Men’s’ being inserted in front of ‘Challenge Cup’, arguing that Rugby League is a men’s game.  Has he not heard that we have a women’s game, too? Is he unaware that there will be three World Cup competitions this autumn – men’s, women’s and disabled?

It is great that our sport is finally encouraging the women’s game. We cannot, like Mr Cunningham, go back to ignoring what fifty per cent of our population can bring to the game.

Mike Worthington, Hexham



The sad thing about Kevin Sinfield joining Leicester Tigers is not that he needs a new challenge, but that Rugby League cannot offer any big challenges due to lack of cash and a vision for a better future.

The game urgently needs to diversify before the next Sky contract is up for renewal in 2024, in order to demonstrate that more Sky subscribers are interested in watching Rugby League. In recent years Sky Sports has begun showing national versions of netball, women’s cricket and the men’s 100 cricket from scratch.

How much better it would be if a major group of investors could take over the London Broncos. David Hughes has spent so much cash just to keep the club alive. A major investor could develop a team similar to that in the Richard Branson era, and invite Kevin Sinfield to become director of rugby.

Imagine if Andy Farrell could become Director of Rugby at a Dublin based, All Ireland, Shamrock team, with the vast Irish population able to access the game via Sky Sports. The addition of London, and an All Ireland team, would add a combined catchment area of around 15 million people.

The game needs two French sides in Catalans and Toulouse to attract a decent TV contract in France. All four sides should receive a ten-year franchise, subject to regular financial and playing audits (to avoid the problems encountered by Toronto Wolfpack).

Sides in the North could continue with promotion and relegation, if they felt that necessary, although the huge financial gap between Super League and the Championship is making this so much more difficult.

Will anything happen? Of course not, and the next Sky contract will be even smaller if at all.

This is my challenge to the Super League Board to do something before it’s too late. I have watched Rugby League for over fifty years, and I am sad to see a bleak future ahead, unless a national vision isn’t developed and implemented soon.

Victor Crewes, Richmond



The dismissal of Pauli Pauli in the dying moments of the recent match between Hull KR and Salford was utterly ridiculous.

I have watched this sport for over 40 years and cannot recall a time when referees made such decisions.

‘Wokism’ is invading our game with the result that hard, well delivered tackles are now deemed to be sending off offences by young officials, who quite clearly have never played rugby of either code themselves.

Indeed, I can see a time coming when tackles of any nature are banned and we end up with thirteen people of either or any sex playing a sterilised game, which is frequently halted whilst officials question the ball carrier as to his or her intention not to hurt or demoralise their opponent in any way; failure to do this will result in a lengthy ban or a full-season suspension.

Madness? Taking things too far? Probably, but I’m afraid that ‘wokism’ and this desperation for making absolutely everyone feel happy, involved and totally valued is completely changing the game I fell in love with long, long, ago in 1978.

It’s a good job Jim Mills is long retired.

The old pros must be either totally bemused or laughing their socks off at the madness that is ruining Rugby League.

Chris Riordan, Charnock Richard nr Chorley



In reading Mr Wright’s letter titled ‘Featherstone’s Bad Apples’ (Mailbag, June 14), I agree that we do have our share of troublemakers, but they are very much a minority of Rovers supporters.

The troublemakers that have been identified have been banned from the ground.

I am sure we are one of the many clubs who have this problem.

I seem to remember in a 2000 televised Challenge Cup semi-final that a certain team’s supporters invaded the pitch and pulled one of the goal posts down after they had lost.

Does Mr Wright remember this?

G Greenwood, Knottingley



In 1994 the great Wigan team, coming off a 46-game season and a victory over Castleford in the Premiership Final, flew into Brisbane without their first choice props to take on the mighty Broncos, who had Langer, Walters, Renouf, Sailor et al.

It was a sensational game with Wigan coming home with the win.

Fast forward to the Super League Show and now we’re listening to Jordan Turner complaining about a five-day turnaround. I nearly fell off my chair listening to that.

It’s not a great look on national TV.

As the saying goes, “No excuses. Play like a champion”

Bertram Roberts, Oldham



I was extremely sad to see the Sydney Roosters captain Boyd Cordner announce his retirement last week.

You never want to see the champion players go too soon. One more game, one more big game, one more season, is what we want to see.

Boyd was the best backrower of his generation. You could feel every run.

When a hard hit-up off your own line was needed, then he would inevitably put his hand up. No one ran a better line than Cordner, who was a phenomenal leader of the Roosters, NSW and Australia. Three Premierships, a couple of Origin wins and a World Cup cap off a remarkable career.

It was a great career cut short, but it was an absolute delight to have seen it.

Aubrey Winstanley, Wakefield



One team from the Championship should be promoted this season, with Leigh, Salford and every other current Super League club protected from relegation.

This would make Super League a 13-team competition.

Each team could then play everyone else home and away and still have the Magic Weekend. That would be 25 fixtures per season, which is a more balanced and fair fixture schedule.

The important part of this is that with an odd number of teams, each team gets two weekends off per season, allowing them to give players a chance to recuperate.

Surely it is better than the shambles we have at present.

Stephen Mayo, Hull



I was amazed to see that Nigel Wood has been given an OBE (League Express, 14 June).

Then I turned to your Mailbag page, and the first letter stated that three RFL staff had received MBEs.

Presumably they were awarded for services to rugby union.

John Clark, Stockton-on-Tees



Who decides when Toulouse home games are cancelled?

They play Swinton and Widnes games in this country but not Bradford or Featherstone. So they play easy teams and miss the harder ones!

Come on, play ball. It should be all or none.

John Ford, Warrington