It’s really so very difficult without major funding. I’ve been around the fringes of the junior, amateur, semi pro & pro side in London over the last 6 years and there are just so many different issues that will take massive and serious long term investment if London is to actually sustain and really grow.
Juniors seem to be made up of union lads playing in off season with teams managed/coached by keen volunteers and the kids parents. team numbers just about enough week in week out, but sometimes teams have to borrow players to make up the numbers. The really good kids get picked up by the pro union teams, the good kids get picked up by Broncos scholarship/academy and the vast majority of the kids who play for fun return to union as they get into adult age range and can only really play 1 code along with work/college/uni commitments. As the kids move on the turnover of parental volunteers changes so little continuity in the clubs apart from a few very keen and hardworking people. Most junior teams play out of parks/schools/union club grounds (Elmbridge/Hemel being few exceptions i’m aware of.) Contrast this to the vast multitude of union club in each part of London & all with their own grounds & clubhouses & many with brand new RFU 5g artificial pitches & RFU funded coaches, multiple teams through each age group. All have income coming in from the clubhouse/pitch hire/venue hire & get sponsorship from lots of local small businesses.
Amateur open age is dominated by the Aussie/Kiwi expats and their games can be really good quality matches. Some very good players who would definitely get into Skolars and help raise the quality & profile if the visa regulations would allow it. West Warriors/Hammersmith Hill Hoists/London Chargers seem to be pretty well established, but are funded in the main by the players subs themselves hiring pitches and using pubs etc for after games so no real income streams coming in to move things forward. Very good family/tribe feel about the clubs means that they seem to have a steady influx of players as visas run out and players return home.
Skolars had been starting to regularly compete against the northern teams - they may be near the bottom of the table but the games were starting to be a lot closer. New river is a good stable base and their recent bar addition gives them some much needed income, but unsure how they will afford to stay there if league 1 funding changes with new sky tv deal allocations to lower leagues. They had a development person who worked in primary schools and the primary school festivals were attended well, but not convinced many of the kids would then play league outside of their school mini competition. Skolars don’t seem to have as many mini/junior sides as they used to (just my observation - i may be wrong, but seem to be missing in certain age group competitions). First team Recruitment is difficult and over last few years the better players seem to be getting older & i’m not really seeing the new younger ones coming through - for some reason a lot of the lads that get released by Broncos seem to go to Coventry over Skolars which is strange - i understand some are midlands based, but a noticeable number are London based & prefer to go to Coventry. Change of directors/ceo/chairman this year make me wonder if departing ones know/worry more about rfl funding plans than has been made public. 5 years ago i thought Skolars we’re improving and things looked positive, but now as a genuine Skolars fan i’m actually concerned about their long term future and financial sustainability (This is not necessarily due to just Skolars themselves, but the whole prospects for lower league and the rfl.)
David Hughes deserves a knighthood for his services to rugby league in London. The guy must have lost a fortune over the years, but has kept the club running and the scholarship and academy system has produced results. Some young players that dont make the grade go to Skolars/Coventry, but the majority seem to stop completely after being released or go to union nat1/2/local teams which is a crying shame after the money that has been invested developing them. That said he quite clearly is reducing his financial commitments - the size and quality of the squad (& spend) has gone down and continues to. I actually think London punch above their weight over the last few years. London’s back room staff is small and do not have funds to sufficiently promote to make any noticeable difference. They again have someone delivering in primary schools, but it’s 1 person in a handful of primary schools., The recent pitshanger youth team start up is promising. Trailfinders is about the right size for where the club is now, but must cost a fortune to rent (it’s in London lol) and i don’t think Broncos get any bar takings. Talking of a new London owned RL stadium is unrealistic and just not going to happen - basic 3 bedroom houses round here can be a million.pounds! Unless a new owner magically appears (or licensing introduced) who has a bottomless pit to burn I can see Broncos staying as a decent top level championship team - possibly moving to part time.
I really am not trying to put a negative spin on things, I’m hoping things get better across all London RL.