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  1. It's a bit of column A and a bit of column B. This weekend we're competing with a full round of Premier League football and The Ashes test at Headingley for back-page coverage. I don't think you can argue a media bias that RL isn't earning column inches against those. That said, we need to make it easy for journalists to talk about RL - particuarly when there are fewer RL journalists around. Both Warrington and St Helens have PR and media managers - the question to be asked is how many stories were they pushing to the media, how easy were they making it for journalists to access the players, etc? And just as I type that, I read that Warrington have banned the media from their "open" training session.
  2. Let's be honest, the issues around drink are a societal issue. We have a very poor attitude as a society towards alcohol and it is only natural that RL is affected by that in the same way that most other sports are. From a supporter perspective, I've been to football, cricket, racing, darts and I wouldn't say that RL is in any worse than those events when it comes to spectators having more than they can handle. As for the players, we're a sport played predominantly by the very demographics that are most likely to suffer from alcohol-related issues, according to https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-statistics In England in 2016, the alcohol-related mortality rate of men in the most disadvantaged socio-economic class is 56% times higher than for men in the least disadvantaged class, while for women the figure is 50% times higher [8]. Most of our players come from those low socio-economic classes and what we do (inadvertently) is put them together in a macho environment where it is perhaps inevitable that alcohol becomes a big factor in their behaviours. Our players also still come from towns and social circles that index higher than average for alcohol-related issues. Throw into the mix that we also don't give our players particuarly good job security and that, particuraly at the younger end, we don't pay them well - these are also factors that contribute to mental health and alcohol-related issues. I'd like to think that our professional clubs are doing the right things in terms of player welfare, player conduct / discipline and education, although we've got still got recent examples of where those structures still aren't working perfectly (the incident with the Tomkins brothers in a Wigan bar, Zak Hardaker, Tumina Tautai and Craig Mullen all being convicted of drink-driving in the last 12 months). There's clearly still a lot more to do.
  3. Castleford's ground is Castleford's problem and Castleford's mess to clean up. Wakefield's ground is Wakefield's problem and Wakefield's mess to clean up. The fact that nobody wants to watch Salford is Salford's issue and their problem to solve. The fact that nobody wants to watch Huddersfield is Huddersfield's issue and their problem to solve. Adding a club in Valencia doesn't make any of those issues "our" issues to solve.
  4. Because this is really basic stuff. This isn't the first time that the RFL have shown that they don't give nearly enough consideration into the image that they are conveying. This year they have proudly released photos like this one of a press conference, where the players looked like they'd rather be anywhere else: One of a press conference that basically looks like a Phoenix Club committee meeting in front of a vending machine... And then one of a Cup Final that is designed to sell it as a "must not miss" event with a picture that suggests that lots of people are quite happy to miss it. It's not "finding something to whinge about" to point out that image matters. Particuarly in a world of social media, first impressions count and the sad fact about all of this is that it's basic stuff - literally Branding 101. It doesn't need an expensive branding agency, a marketing guru or Eddie Hearn to realise that those photos should never have seen the light of day, never mind been tweeted proudly across social media. Promoting the game isn't the RFL "being proactive", it's the RFL "doing it's job". Unfortunately, it isn't doing that job properly.
  5. I wouldn't be so sure on that. My (admittedly anecdotal) experience suggests it's fans of the 'smaller' clubs that insist that the game needs P&R to retain interest at the bottom end of the table. I think most fans of the bigger clubs would rather not have it as a side show to what should be a focus on the top-end of the table.
  6. I agree that this is a perfectly valid concern and I understand the challenges facing the amateur game, but I'll try and answer it from two perspectives. I don't profess that these are the "right" answers, but I think they're valid perspectives. Firstly, whilst we are competing against much more for the attention of young people there are still, in my view, kids who do want to particpate in sport (participation in Rugby Union, for example, grew 26% at the same time participation in RL fell 10%). One of the issues is that both sport and society is making it hard to do this through things such as the erosion of playing spaces, by making good spaces prohibitively expensive, the impact of austerity and so-on - these factors are more acute in the RL heartlands than elsewhere. The term "barren places" is a bit of a loaded term in my view. Yes, they might be new to RL, but that doesn't mean that they are new to sport or new to a code of rugby / football. One of the biggest criticisms I see on social media about what Toronto are doing in their community work is that they are partnering with established rugby union structures. I think this criticism in unfair. Rugby in Canada and North America doesn't have the class-system baggage that it does in the UK. It could and arguably should be easier for Toronto or any other NA team to offer an opportunity for RU juniors to pursue a career in RL if they want to. These places aren't "barren", they're untapped. If you put a Steeden ball in the hands of a kid in Toronto, that kid will have just as much fun as one in Thatto Heath. Yes, a lot of this is very much a long-game approach and there is a lot of theory that may not reflect practice. It's possible that the first Canadian stand-off for Toronto isn't even born yet, but it takes a long time for any field (barren or not) to produce a harvest. The longer we leave it, the longer it will take. Secondly, we've never had a fully professional RL presence in Oldham, Swinton or Rochdale (to cite another poster's examples). We probably never will. To pin the success of the amateur clubs in these areas on the professional game is misguided. The reason why amateur clubs in these areas will fail, if they ever do, is because of a long and varied list of reasons related to demographic changes, population changes and leisure habit changes. But let's say that in 20 years time we have professional clubs in Toronto, New York and Boston. Do you not believe that could be a huge selling point for young people playing this game? The opportunity for young people to earn a living playing the sport they love in some of the world's most vibrant, exciting cities? I know I'd be inspired by that opportunity, and I'm sure many others would as well. If kids from Oldham, Swinton and Rochdale go on to become stars of this sport in Boston or New York, that's a fantastic thing in my view.
  7. Exactly, which makes them an extremely exceptional example to bring up - you can apply the same criteria to Paris SG. That doesn't however change the fact that what matters is sustainability - something that is lacking across far too much of RL. Yes, a North American TV deal does have a big influence in this entire process, which is why any sensible fan acknowledges that the inherent risks with North American expansion. But firstly, in order to generate interest from North American broadcasters, it's helpful to have a presence in North America - Toronto provides that. And secondly, whatever happens at Toronto doesn't change the fact that the situation across UK RL clubs isn't healthy - which is the point I was initially responsing to. You can't apply a double standard that says Toronto should be self-sufficient but it is OK for Leigh to be at the mercy of Derek Beaumont's whims. The goal here is that all clubs should be self-sufficient and that means that we need to increase the level of revenue coming into the game. It's clear that the ability of the clubs to do that is limited, so that puts more emphasis on central funding. Where does most of the central funding come from? TV and sponsorship. So why not make this sport as appealing as it can be to both domestic and global TV and sponsorship markets?
  8. I don't believe that there really is that much supressed demand due to ticket prices. You cite Huddersfield - a club that has for some years now offered season tickets at around £100 - less than half what most clubs charge. They've even let fans in for free on a number of occasions and not achieved anything close to a full house. We are one of the cheapest professional sports you can watch in the UK. I genuinely don't believe that ticket prices are the issue - the issue is the product and how the clubs are selling it.
  9. Manchester City generated £10.4m in profit last year, but overlooking that (and the fact that their situation is clearly exceptional in professional sport), I'm not sure what point you're making. Yes, some clubs rely on benefactors in sports other that RL. That doesn't make the situation in RL any more healthy. Nor does it prove one way or another the viability of Toronto or any other expansion club as sustainable long-term businesses.
  10. I've got no idea whether Toronto might or might not be sustainable in the long term. I suspect you don't either. But Toronto is a business that is three years old and has the initial start-up costs that go with a three-year-old business. Most of the clubs mentioned earlier have had more than a century head start, and still don't appear to be any further forward.
  11. Is that such a bad thing? It's very hard for somebody to buy into RL if they don't live in a tiny geographic area. Expanding our appeal across the media helps us with that. Going to every game home or away doesn't make you a better fan than the supporter who watches on TV because he can't or doesn't want to go to the ground. They're both fans of the sport. Let's get out of this idea that we are in the business of selling tickets - we aren't. We're in the business of selling content, and selling entertainment. The ticket is just one way of charging to access that content, but why can't TV or online be another one - and one that we embrace and enhance? The world is increasingly moving to an 'on demand' culture where people want to access content on their terms - why insist that they can only watch a game in a rickety ground with ###### food and beer at 3pm on Sunday?
  12. You're right, rugby league would not survive without those benefactors and the point I'm making is that is not a healthy place to be in. Last year we saw what happens when the owner of a Championship club throws his toys out of the pram and decides he doesn't want to bankroll another failed promotion effort. It is only a matter of time before we see another club in a similar position either because that owner has got bored, or because father time has caught up with them. What is a healthy position to be in is to have sustainable clubs that can stand on their own two feet because they have a financially sound business plan. Clubs that are sustainable because they can attract high quality and high-paying sponsors, clubs that are sustainable because they can attract strong crowds, clubs that are sustainable because they can generate good levels of non-matchday income. We have few clubs that can do that. If, and I accept that it is a big if, there are clubs out there in the big wide world that believe that they can be sustainable without a heavy reliance on a benevolent benefactor, why is that something to fear?
  13. The problem is that the people making this argument often don't even seem to know what it means. Does it mean throwing more money at clubs? If so, for what return? What does throwing more money at <insert Heartland club> achieve that isn't being achieved at present? The argument also implies that "the game" is investing in expansion, which isn't the case. David Argyle is investing in Toronto, "the game" isn't. Bernard Guasch is investing Catalans, "the game" isn't. David Hughes is putting his money into London, not "the game's" money. In the same vein, Derek Beaumont is (when it suits him) investing in Leigh, "the game" isn't. It's an argument that supposes that if it weren't for expansion clubs, the smaller clubs would be far more successful than they are, when there is no evidence at all to support that. This is not a zero-sum game; the foreigners aren't taking your job and we do not have to all chase after the same limited pool of money - there is more to be found out there if only we look for it. I've heard lots of people argue "invest/concentrate/focus on the heartlands". Not one person making that argument has been able to explain how that moves the sport forward from where it is after more than a century of doing just that.
  14. It says "Image courtesy of RFL" on it?
  15. Fans are happy with clubs constantly being within a cat's c**k hair of the administrators coming in? There are fans that are perfectly happy with clubs being reliant on a small handful of benefactors that could get bored at any minute? Fans that are happy with a declining, ageing fan base? Fans that are happy with empty seats at our prestige events? Fans that are happy that clubs are playing in decaying stadia? Fans happy that their are clubs that seem to have to play brinkmanship with their local council every year about their playing venue? Fans that are happy with declining youth participation? Fans that are happy with our playing talent taking a £1m real-terms pay-cut over the last 20 years? Fans happy that our best talent needs to go abroad to earn a fair living for their efforts? Yeah, sounds positive to me.
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