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Tides Of History

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  1. Thanks for all the contributions so far - there is clearly a lot of expertise and knowledge in this area. I hope we find new ways of debating this within the game. There is no major problem having some association with a bookmaker - although you do need to acknowledge that there are trade offs with doing so. It is deeply alarming however that in a home World Cup, where we have the potential to reach a new audience, we have had to rely on Mr Done. The rise of Betfred speaks to that deeper question of sponsorship in the game which appears to have fallen off a cliff in recent years. As for those who think that this is some sort of left-wing agenda, i urge you to look at the people who are calling for a reversal of the Gambling Act. Iain Duncan Smith is leading the campaign with Labour's Carolyn Harris, which emphasises that this is an issue that is cutting across those divides. Labour's last manifesto called for a ban on shirt sponsorship. There is little to suggest that they will u-turn on that. It seems strange, when these debates are happening, to take a punt on Betfred in a World Cup year. What i would like to see the game work on is what story we telling to corporate sponsors to get them involved. Are there different ways of selling the sport that can move us beyond Betfred? Are there better ways we can treat them once they are on board to maximise their benefits. The alternative is to to take Ralph, Derek and Shaun at face value and accept that we are never going to attract other major sponsors - so lets just take the money from Fred and be grateful. It probably depends on your world view whether we begin to challenge that more.
  2. Rugby league once prided itself on not taking any money from betting companies. But the disaster of the Stobart deal has opened up the game to Betfred. In the past five years they’ve secured naming rights for Super League, Championship, League 1, Challenge Cup, Women’s and Wheelchair game. All sports have to confront this trade offs that come with signing up to gambling sponsors. Campaigners are winning the battle in football, with clubs expected to impose a voluntary ban on shirt sponsorship in the Premier League soon. Those who run RL on the other hand argue that Betfred are a positive influence on society. Shaun Wane for example recently said that he would like to win the World Cup for Fred Done this year to thank him for funding the game. At the same time, he admitted that the game would "struggle" without his money. Their takeover of the game have this has been done without a debate on the assumption that they pay overs for sponsorship – and a skint sport needs all the money it can get. However the announcement that the England side will be sponsored by Betfred, in a home World Cup on the BBC, has set alarm bells ringing. Are we really in such a poor place that nobody else fancied sponsoring us this year? There are three questions I think emerge from this. The first is how wise is it to have a single sponsor take every naming right we have? The second is whether the fact that it is a gambling company has an impact on the image of the game? For example, where does this fit with Dutton’s stated aim that this World Cup can mirror the spirit of the women’s game, in promoting family values etc. The third question is one that is out of our hands. What happens to the sport when the government reviews gambling legislation around advertising? I’ve put some thoughts down on this for those that are interested. I hope we at least start to debate Betfred’s takeover of the game and what the trade offs are. As ever, all thoughts, criticism and alternative views are welcome! https://thecritic.co.uk/does-rugby-league-have-a-gambling-problem/
  3. I really like this idea. You could have a different theme every year. Perhaps we should market the Challenge Cup as a purely nostalgic comp - a reminder of when it used to be the main prize in the game. Those days are never going to return but we can have some fun with it
  4. In putting together a reflection on Maurice Lindsay this week, i found an quote that summed up much of his philosophy: "I never wanted to be an ambassador, a diplomat. I just wanted to be a fighter for an underprivileged sport” Love him or hate him, few would argue that Lindsay was not a fighter. The question is, while this may have worked at Wigan in the 1980s, when he was battling to turn a single club around, can it work when running an entire sport? While i have made the case that Lindsay was a rugby league visionary (ahead of his time when it came to professionalisation, marketing, modern supporter demands etc) - his record at the RFL is one that is very much contested. Bar the switch to Summer, the sport failed in many of the objectives set out at the beginning of the Super League era The question i'm interested in is whether we think in 2022 and beyond we need a fighter (to challenge the current orthodoxy) or a unifier (that can maximise what we already have to better effect)? Or can we do both? For those interested, i put down my own thoughts on Maurice for LoveRugbyLeague this week https://www.loverugbyleague.com/post/maurice-lindsay-farewell-to-a-rugby-league-revolutionary/
  5. I wrote this piece - thanks for sharing! Just a bit of extra context. My motivation was to look at the debate around knighthoods in RL and raise awareness of the issue because - for many outsiders that i speak to - its a surprise to them that no one in our game has been knighted. On a secondary point, i wanted to address the bog standard reply of "why does it matter", "the honours system is a joke" and "how do we know if people want them anyway". I think it does matter. Not because i believe in the honours system, but because our athletes - such as Hanley, Boston, Robinson, Sinfield - have done as much for British sport as any else who has been put forward for this honour. In many ways, their humble origins mean they are more worthy of honours. I don't really understand why their achievements shouldn't be on a par with all the cricket players, F1 drivers and olympians who have been knighted. And unless we talk about it more, i doubt that will change.
  6. I offered to help do some media stuff for free - but the club never got back to me. Perhaps they don't want volunteers running things - which is understandable - but they also need to up their content. There are amateur clubs that are more proactive. I'd be more than happy to help with socials - and know others who would to. The offer still stands if anyone from the club is reading this.
  7. Not sure what is going on here. Rumours that they are locked out of the account....
  8. Hadfield was one of the true greats of RL journalism wasn't he. Can highly recommend the book he edited X111 winters - which was rugby league’s attempt to tap into the post Fever Pitch boom in sports writing. His player profiles before cup finals - available through (The Independent archive if you are a student) are gold. His book on the history of Australian players in the UK - Playing Away - is another classic.
  9. Rugby league has historically had a difficult relationship with television. From Wigan refusing to let the BBC film at Central Park for fear of a reduction in crowds, to the campaigns to remove Eddie Waring from the commentary box throughout the 1970s. Sky has come in for more criticism than ever in recent years. But just how important is TV presentation to potential growth for the game? Every once in a while there is a change in broadcasting that comes along and shakes up the sport. I don’t think we can underestimate the importance to the image of the game in the 1980s, that we had Ray French instead of Eddie Waring commentating on the 1982 and 1986 Ashes series, as well as the 85 cup final. This was boosted by the arrival of package shows such as RL Action on ITV which gave us greater coverage for the first time. Nor, the advancement of production techniques adopted by BSKYB in the 1990s, which enabled a rebranding of the players as modern athletes on a par with those in other sports. We now take that for granted, but it wasn’t always central to the games image. No doubt, the last few years we’ve stagnated, but Channel 4 feels like a significant turning point with the opportunity for new narratives, new presenters and hopefully greater cut through. The question is, can we capitalise on it? Are the broadcasters, commentators and presenters important? I think they are but perhaps I’m wrong. I’ve looked at the history of our relationship with television for my latest article – and as ever I’d appreciate the your thoughts on it! https://thecritic.co.uk/can-channel-4-shake-up-super-league/
  10. Really good points. I like the observation that we burden Catalan with developing French rugby when we don't ask the same of others. We have obviously moved on from the early idea that Fulham/Broncos could, on their own, carry the sport to new markets. The opportunity the Broncos have now is to create something that is for them, in the community and able to operate without the burden of growing the game nationally. What that looks like over the next ten years (if they stick around that long) is still totally unclear. The signs so far are that they are just appealing to the 500 or so people that they have always been able to rely on. Do the Broncos have a plan for how they are going to reach their expected 5000 supporters in three years?
  11. The move of London Broncos to AFC Wimbledon is obviously another opportunity to try and tap into a different London market. Structurally AFC are more similar to a rugby league club than a Premiership football team - but their success will be measured in how they get people through the gate. So far the promotion I've seen seems to be restricted to a few old fashioned style posters on trains with little attempt to generate a new type of supporter to the ground. More broadly, have we generally given up on cracking the London market? We once, as a game, put a serious amount of strategic importance on developing that London market to generate newspaper columns, extra investment etc. There was that sense that a London club could, in itself, change the stereotypes and image problems that the game has held. We no longer talk of them doing so. Have we decided that it is a luxury we cannot afford? What are we doing to attract those who will attend the Challenge Cup final and the RLWC semis to Wimbledon? Is it going to be a club for ex-pat northerners or something for the people of Wimbledon? The lack of outcry over the move to part-time status is a signal - if it was needed - that they are no longer of strategic importance to the rest of the sport. Does the bring opportunities or is it the final nail in the coffin? Would love to hear the thoughts as the club moves into a new era Here are some thoughts I've put together on the last 40 years of the Broncos - a real pleasure to go back and look at the early days as Fulham and the opportunities that it created. I wish them all the best for the future https://thecritic.co.uk/southern-discomfort/
  12. Very fair comments. My thinking was that renaming it would be both a nod to Burrow and an opportunity to make the award even more special. It's not as if it's not relevant to the award - he's the only person to have won it by a unanimous vote. Seems like a good opportunity - after almost 25 years of grand finals - to give the trophy it's own history. It might even mean more to the winner if it's attached to a historic moment. Good discussion though -good to gear a range of opinion!
  13. There's no history with Harry Sunderland and the Grand Final. What are you hoping to preserve?!
  14. What are we doing when we present the man of the match in the grand final as the Harry Sunderland award? Why do we still call that it? Isn't there an opportunity here to do something better, more apt and more fitting of the occasion?
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