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Toby Chopra

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Everything posted by Toby Chopra

  1. I agree Manchester Rangers attendance tells us nothing about the appetite for professional RL in Manchester, but I also disagree that you can't "drop a team in" a place and see it do well. As Toronto and Wasps in Coventry have proved, you can if you do it right. True, it involves lots of money, lots of research into the market, and skilled administrators to implement. Huge doubts about whether rugby league has any of that. But in principle, it can be done, and I completely reject the idea that some geographies and some groups of people are intrinsically incapable of supporting a team. They can, if you give them something they want, whether that be a good day out with kids/lads/friends, some local pride and identity, hunky players to look at, or some Instagram opportunities. Whatever. The 80 minutes is only part of that, and, for a new team, not the most important. Sport, like life, isn't fixed in stone. Interest rises and falls, supporters come and go, sports' images and reputations change. Football never used to have the middle class support it has now, and I can tell you from personal experience that in the 80s people from minority backgrounds rarely dared attend a game. All that's changed. And you have to engage with these trends. But British rugby league seems to think none of this applies to it, which is why the world is passing it by.
  2. Or even just watch it on TV. More broadly, I do think there's an issue with both player and supporter fatigue by this time of the year, which harms the product, and interest in it. We've discussed at length before cutting the number of regular season fixtures, but it seems the clubs don't dare as they'd have to cut season ticket prices with no guarentee of higher sales - a risk they can't take as budgets are so tight. So here's a question for all you season ticket holders out there: if clubs reduced regular season games in the ST to 12 from 14, BUT also said that playoff games were included, would you be willing to pay the same price you do now? Is that a fair deal? If so, players would be fresher from a shorter season and playoff games would be much better attended.
  3. This is perhaps unintentionally revealing about the entitled, and ultimately lazy, nature of some in British rugby league. As a sport, we angrily demand our place at the top table of British sports, bleat on about the unfair barriers we face and how sponsors and broadcasters short change us. And yet, when it's suggested that in pursuit of this we do some of the things that LITERALLY EVERY OTHER MAJOR SPORT has - like internationalise our player base, or get on a plane one in a while - suddenly it's all too much to ask. Too much of a faff. We can't have it both ways. We can either make the effort to be a modern 21st century sport on the same level as our peers and - potentially - reap some of the same benefits. Or we can not make the effort. The latter is fine if that's what the sport chooses, but rugby league doesn't have a god given right to exist if it can't be bothered to engage with the world it exists in.
  4. Culture is an evolutionary thing Harry, not something fixed in stone for ever more. And it works both ways. Rugby league is no longer a big part of the culture for many people in towns where it used to be king. But it can become part of the culture elsewhere - if it offers people a meaningful connection in the present day. Any sport that relies just on the fact that it used to popular in a particular area, without making itself meaningful to new generations, will just fade away.
  5. The Sunday night TV viewing figures on Sky are lower than Superleague, although this is partly because the NFL cannibalises its own ratings with Gamepass. Sky pay for NFL a fraction of what they pay for the Superleague contract, plus they have much lower production costs. NFL is not massive in the UK, it's a niche sport like Rugby League, although it's true that the NFL fanbase on average is younger and more geographically broad. The demographics always win out in the end! Obviously, the fundamental difference is that they can operate here as an add on to being the richest sport in the richest country in the world, so it's like a bonus market with much of the hard work done already to produce an elite product. That's why they can make inroads.
  6. Unexpected but very welcome (even if the Telegraph's gone slightly barmy in the last couple of years.) Someone's worked their contacts to get this, and they've successfully pitched a different view of rugby league to the prospective sponsor. More of this please, RFL/SL.
  7. I don't think that's where you start. You start with a detailed, professional analysis of what you have now - your brand, image, fanbase, commercial partners. Who are your stakeholders (which of course includes fans and grassroots) , why do they engage with the game, what do they get from it, how does it make them feel? Is the game providing that? Then you look at the make-up of the wider communities that the game operates in - towns, cities, regions and countries, and see what that wider group is looking for in sport, and why Rugby League doesn't appeal to them. If you don't understand what your own product is, and what the environment you operate in looks like, its just flailing in the dark. NA may or may not be part of that process, and indeed Wolfpack have shown that they are asking and answering some of those questions, but the problem is they are doing it on their own, rather than it being a unifled, whole game approach. Ultimately, the Wolfpacks efforts will be in vain if the game as a whole doesn't do the same work. What we need is a Framing the Future for the 2020s, done properly, that looks into every part of the game, and studies every part of society, and sees where the disconnect is. That is very expensive. It's also slightly pointless if the game doesn't have strong central governance to act on its recommendations. Structures, leagues, locations etc are all secondary until you've answered the more fundamental questions: who are you, what do you want, how do others perceive you, what do they want, why don't they think you can give it to them.
  8. I mean, I'm genuinely happy for you that you still feel you have your club to support, everyone should have that, recent events in roundball show how devastating that loss can be. But I must confess I'm a bit surprised by your logic. The team won't be called Swinton or play in Swinton, seemingly ever again, but you're happy to keep supporting them because the name on a Company House file says Swinton? All power to you, it's totally your call of course what you do. But it goes against the grain of most fans on here, who seem to be clear that if a team changes it's name, and leaves its traditional locality, then they're done. Which kinda makes sense to me. The Roosters example is interesting, but there are differences there. Sydney is a big, fairly integrated metropolis, that's gone through huge population shifts over the last 30 years, like many World Cities. So a culture of clubs playing outside their traditional localities in big, sometimes shared stadiums has become established, especially for the inner suburbs clubs. What still connects them to their traditional areas, is not so much the name on the Ltd Company, but their leagues clubs, and their junior systems, which often still bear the old names. Do the Lions still plan to maintain a supporters club and junior programs in Swinton? If so, that would give the area a unique and special connection to what you'd hope would become a successful "Greater Manchester" club in years to come.
  9. I said what it is in my original post. We need to learn how to change our sport to match the changes in the country, so it doesn't die. NFL and NBA have done this well, baseball and hockey resisted this, sticking with long used narratives and brands, until their numbers started to lag, and belatedly started to change. Nobody is saying British rugby league and U. S. sports are "the same" just that all sports operate in a changing economic and societal environment and many of the challenges are in common, all round the world. It's really isn't that radical a suggestion. Businesses look abroad for innovation all the time, and sports often poach executives off each other and from overseas, where they can be shown to have achieved something the poacher wants. It doesn't actually matter where they come from. Indeed the NFL and the Premier League run an executive exchange program becasue they believe they can learn from each other. If its good enough for them... We need to learn from any sport, any where, that has successfully widened its demographic, geographic and social footprint, because our existing demographic is shrinking and getting (relatively) poorer. This is painful to accept, but it's not meant as an insult, just stating reality. Although it used to be a great innovator, nowadays, British rugby league finds it hard to change for a variety of reasons, including vested interests, a tightly held identity, thin financial resources, a lack of executive talent and a lack of centralised power. It needs to overcome some of these or it won't stop the decline. I don't view saying this as slagging off RL, on the contrary, a true friend tells those they care about the truth, even if painful. I want British rugby league to still be here, indeed be thriving, in 25-30 years. But it won't be until it makes itself relevant to a much bigger slice of 21st century Britain than it does today.
  10. Edit: I apologise for directing unseemly terms at an individual. I will try to do better.
  11. To say rugby league has nothing to learn from American sports is just another example of the head in the sand stubbornness bordering on arrogance that will be the death of the British game. People need to learn a bit of humility and admit that our game is massively struggling, and we should be frankly begging to learn from anywhere and everywhere that can help us, without any reservation. We just don't have time to worry about bruised egos any more. The biggest thing we can learn from US sports is how, with varying successes, they have reinvented themselves to change with the rapidly changing demographics of the United States. NFL and Basketball have transformed themselves, and profited from it, MLS has ripped up its latino/soccer moms plan and gone for the urban millenials crowd, NHL and MLB have come late to the game and only now catching up, while college football and NASCAR are stuck in regional strongholds. Loads to learn and study by clever people in our game, if they cared. Unfortunately Rugby league is the worst British sport by far for thinking about how to adapt to changing demographics, it's not even on page 1 and that's why we're fighting harder and harder every year to stay afloat in shrinking markets.
  12. Sky only showed the Toronto games becasue Toronto paid the production costs. Toronto have paused TV production until the playoffs start, then Sky will pick up the feed again, plus produce a game themselves in weeks when Toronto are off. As for next season, you say they could "revert" to showing London away games. Did they ever do this before? I don't remember so, but am I forgetful? I expect next year Championship will be limited to Bash, playoffs plus some OurLeague games. Maybe the latter could be simulcast on BBC Red button/iPlayer?
  13. Sure, but I'm not sure that's down to speeding up the game because of rules, in fact isn't the ruck faster in oz than in England. Their offences are better becasue of just the reality of more players, more money and better coaches.
  14. Not saying you're wrong, but could you give an example of this? Because my view would be that it's harder to break through defensive lines because defences are fitter, faster and much better drilled - another outcome of full time professionalism. Offences, in some cases, have just failed to keep up. But I'd struggle to describe this year's Saints team or Cas from a couple of years ago as lacking in skill in the backs.
  15. This is an interesting point, and one worth engaging with. What I'd say, though, is that the shift to speed, strength and power is the inevitable outcome of full time professionalism, as these are the things that can be easily increased with full time training. And if the game hadn't fully professionalisef in the 90s, given all the subsequent changes in the the shape of the economy, employment and the wider sporting and media landscape, would it even have survived in any form till today? I have my doubts. The challenge for all sports, not just rugby league, is to have a grassroots that caters for all types of people and that is based around fun and sociability, while also having a pathway to elite professionalism. Football and Union struggle with this too.
  16. It seems obvious that 29 games is too many becasue of the impact it has on players health. The TV issue could be solved with bye weeks, meaning the number of broadcasts remained the same, with teams having staggered weeks off, which actually is good for the players recovery and performance. This is what the NFL does. But if each individual club's total number of home games falls from 14 to, say, 12, then there's an issue with paying spectators, and particularly season ticket holders, which is where the clubs make most of their money. The reduced walk up numbers will likely be offset by reduced marginal costs of staging each game. But the Fixed, up front season ticket income covers the Fixed/contacted costs that clubs can't get out of. They can't afford for it to fall. So the crucial question for all you season ticket holders out there is: would you happily, without question, pay the same money for a 12 game ticket next year as you do for a 14 game ticket now? Because if not, where do the clubs make up the money? (And I don't think smaller squads are the answer as you'd either sacrifice the stars, which worsens the product, or deprive youngsters of a pro career. And it also would also make it more likely players would have to play hurt, which defeats the point of reducing the number of games)
  17. Why is a 20 game season not enough? Once you add the CC and 1895 cups and potentially Yorkshire cup, that should be fine. In fact for development clubs it's probably more than enough and means they don't have to start in the depths of winter.
  18. I thought Salford were tied to the AJ Bell (part-owned by the council) because they owe the council around £1.5m, which would be called in if they tried to leave? Oddly enough, if Sale bought the stadium outright, that could free Salford to move to a more suitable site.
  19. Well, more than zero, so yes. Like I said, I'm not doubting Cats' value to the competition as a whole, even if the Perpignan games stop being televised. I'm just responding to the comments that Cats bring more value to the Sky contract that domestic clubs do. Can't see any evidence of that.
  20. What evidence have you got for saying that? Sky don't sell subscriptions in France. They do in Wakefield, Huddersfield and Salford. Sky only show the Saturday games because they are supplied the feed for next to nothing. They won't cover any of the Perpignan games off their own bat. Now, just to be clear, I'm not arguing that Cats should be kicked out of SL. They bring things to the competition that those other clubs mostly don't: namely one of the strongest revenue generating commercial operations in the league and they are the lynchpin of the French player development pipeline. Both of those things benefit the competition as a whole. But adding value to the Sky contract by just existing is not one of them. I don't belive many people in England decide to buy a Sky rugby league subscription because of some sort of exotic attraction from Cats being in the completion so it doesn't make any narrow difference to Sky if they're there. There's going to be some difficult decisions to make for the sport in the next few years and we need to be clear and accurate about the pros and cons of what each club brings.
  21. Well their destiny is certainly in their own hands, and as a team you can't ask for more than that. I'll freely admit I was one of those who thought they'd get nowhere, and would be dead and buried by now. Delighted to be proved wrong. Good luck London.
  22. All fair points, I certainly don't think there's a sure fire route to a successful Manchester side, it maybe that the UK sports market has matured to a level that means professional club rugby has to make the best of the footprint it already has. That said, I'd hope Elstone knows the answers to the questions you ask about current SL interest in Manchester.
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