In the latest League Express upfront column, last week’s Challenge Cup news was in focus.
The RFL’s decision to charge Toronto and Toulouse for making the Challenge Cup Final is nothing short of a disgrace.
As outlined, the two Championship clubs were told they would have to provide a bond in the region of £750,000 to underwrite any losses suffered by the RFL as a result of their inclusion in the event.
Quite unsurprisingly, both sides declined and will therefore not compete in next year’s event.
The whole thing is shambolic and smacks of a major lack of ambition on the governing body’s behalf.
They are, in essence, conceding they cannot fill Wembley for one of the biggest games in the sport’s annual calendar.
To suggest the inclusion of a non-UK club is the reason for that is disingenuous. When Catalans, a French club, faced St Helens in the 2007 final it attracted a crowd of 84,241. It remains the second highest attended Cup final since 1988.
It reinforces the sport has a horrible habit of making excuses to take attention away from its shortcomings.
Game-wide, the sport has made too many excuses for too long. It simply must stop, and it must stop from the top.
The RFL should be doing everything in its power to fill Wembley next year. Instead, it is trying to find ways to protect itself in case it doesn’t. It is an appallingly pessimistic outlook and an unambitious, glass-half-empty approach. And inevitably the RFL’s decision creates massively negative publicity for the game as a whole.
The RFL should invest more of its energy in figuring out how they can improve on their approach last year, rather than fearing the worst.
Having Catalans at Wembley was a huge opportunity for the sport. But did the RFL really make the most of it? It’s very difficult to claim that they did. Meanwhile, the Catalans themselves are doing so by taking a game against Wigan to Barcelona’s Nou Camp Stadium next year, and all credit to them for doing so.
Too often, Rugby League feels like a sport with one objective, survive. But if you only ever aspire to survive, that’s all you’ll ever do. In an ever-evolving world where rivals are finding ways to grow, Rugby League cannot afford to continue with its current mentality.