It’s been revealed this past week that the World Club Challenge could be set for expansion, after Leeds Rhinos’ Gary Hetherington told Sky Sports that discussions are ongoing regarding a potential six-team tournament in the near future
“We really hope this is going to happen, “ said Hetherington. “I think it is fair to say that the Super League Clubs have been pushing for this for the last seven to eight years. Gradually the support has been growing from the NRL clubs who have become more enthusiasts over the years.”
With both major parties now seemingly on board, it looks like it will be a matter of when, rather than if, this expanded competition takes place. However, is it a good idea, or will be it be doomed to fail from the very start? TotalRL.com takes a look at both sides of the argument, and debates whether or not the expansion is going to be good or bad for Rugby League.
YES, it’s time we expand this great concept
Ask any player, coach – or even most fans. They will tell you that the World Club Challenge is an incredibly exciting concept, and the prospect of being involved with it is simply mouthwatering. If clubs are serious about opening up this fantastic competition to more teams, the game should embrace it with open arms. Rugby League has come a long way since the disastrous 1997 World Club Challenge, and the game is now ready to take the next step on a world stage once again.
The game has just come off the back of a successful World Cup tournament, and worldwide publicity of the sport is constantly growing. A World Club Challenge – with both sides of the world seeing games being played – would be simply incredible. The prospect of the likes of Leeds, Wigan and Warrington, for example, doing battle against the NRL’s very best sides on a more frequent basis can only be healthy for the game. This won’t be like 1997 – which was a real mess of a tournament – both Super League Europe and the NRL will be ready for this – and it will be a success.
NO, it’s a logistic nightmare and a financial horror
1997 is less than 20 years ago – yet Rugby League fans will probably wish it was 200 years away. That year saw a real dark spot on the recent history of Rugby League, as the game tried to expand the World Club Challenge concept to include numerous teams from both England and Australia’s top divisions. Massive financial losses and geographical problems – as well as Super League teams doing appallingly – meant the tournament was an utter disaster.
How will a revamped edition of this be any different? You’re still going to have teams having to travel thousands of miles just to play a solitary game, and that’s going to have a real impact on teams’ performances. Sure, the interest in the World Club Challenge is quite high; but is that because it’s a one-game concept? If you have 12, 14 or even 16 games across a tournament it will be a real challenge for crowds to stay high across a whole event. It’ll be a logistical nightmare, and there’s just no way it can succeed. The game should stick to what it knows, and keep it as a showpiece, single game tournament. It’s working, so why change it?