Championship facing financial uncertainty

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 23rd Aug 2021

It’s been a busy few days for Batley, as preparations for the key home Championship clash against Sheffield were accompanied by confirmation of a string of contract extensions for 2022.

The flurry if activity is a sign that coach Craig Lingard has an eye not just on the current campaign, during which his play-off chasers have chalked up twelve wins out of 18 league games, the latest 56-12 at home to the Eagles, but next year and well beyond.

It’s been well chronicled that 2022 could be absolutely pivotal for a host of clubs amid yet another league restructure.

The problem for Lingard and his chairman Kevin Nicholas, and plenty of other clubs too, is that while they know change is coming, they still aren’t sure of its nature.

Nor has it been confirmed what central funding will be received for next season, even though the end of the current campaign is only a few months away.

A former long-serving Batley player, Lingard is a Rugby League man through and through, but is clearly becoming frustrated by the uncertainty.

He won’t be the only one, and the game can’t risk losing some of those people who make such a contribution.

“How do you retain and bring players in when you don’t know the income stream?” he recently asked.

Lingard, who coached Keighley in difficult circumstances before taking over at Batley, also has concerns about talk of two divisions of ten from 2023 onwards.

“It’s a big worry. Clubs will throw money at it, and if they don’t make the top-20 cut, some could easily go to the wall,” he added.

“You look at a club like Batley, a Rugby League member since the very start who have been in the Championship or its equivalent since 1999 and have shown they can not only survive at that level, but compete.

“Foundation clubs are important, we have to look after the history and heritage of Rugby League as well as grow the game.

“Sustainability, which I think we have at Batley, is vital, and while it’s no good being a dinosaur, changes have to be the right ones.

“Take the two tens idea. What about the clubs who miss out? The player pool is already so small, with the same names doing the rounds, but it will reduce further.

“How do you expand the game by decreasing the number of teams?”

The debate over how the second tier should look in the future is taking place as many observers comment on how entertaining the Championship has been this season.

And Sky Sports customers will get the chance to judge for themselves during the play-offs, with the broadcaster confirming all five of this year’s play-off matches, culminating in the Million Pound Game to decide promotion to Super League on on Sunday, October 10, will be shown live.

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