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Not another bluddy topic on this subject, I hear you say. No. Most threads about the future seem to have a narrow focus: Toronto, the amateur game, expansion, the USA, TV deals, four quarters, things were better in the past so let’s go back.

Of course, the motivation remains the same for most posters: how can our game survive, never mind thrive in this the 3rd decade of the 21st century, 125 years after the game's birth.

I think we now have an opportunity to look at the future with a much wider focus, a higher-level view, leaving the RFL and clubs with the short-term issues of restarting the game before it is forgotten. It goes without saying that as fans, we have no influence on the top-level pro game really. We turn up at the turnstile (except for internationals where we don't seem to do that), we pay our TV licences, Sky subscriptions etc but really that is about it.  At grass roots level and up to sub-league 1 level, we may have more influence - not really my area.

I'm not talking about changing the rules of play, though that might be part of it.

 I'm talking about making the game appealing to the many millions who are not currently fans, maybe those who see RL as just another branch of rugby, or those who don't even know it exists.

Unless there are major changes in the way that the game works and is presented to the public, then we will never see crowds growing, never see TV contracts increasing, never see decent media coverage. Doing the same things repeatedly and expecting different outcomes might be an indicator of madness, but it is also an indicator of experience in that we can see what does not work.

My first suggestion is to look at other sports and see what they have done to survive and grow.  I'd start with baseball to see if there are any lessons. It is unique, not like any other top-level sport. Forget rounders, forget softball. just watch some baseball.  It is fast, it is physical, a game is an event and after a long fight, it is now truly inclusive.

 The death of baseball has been foretold by miserable fans ever since its birth. Ring a bell?

Despite that, Alex Rodriguez is still MLB's career leader in earnings with over $450 million and Mike Trout is already guaranteed to make at least $507 million in his career thanks to his latest contract.  Many leading players can expect to earn $150 million each in their careers. There's real money in them there bases! Enough for kids to really want to play the game. And that's in a dying game, remember.

I was trying to understand how baseball had started to die. See, I’d heard that baseball was dying. I’d heard this for my entire life. This is true for my father and his entire life, and his father and his entire life, and his father and his entire life—because it’s forever been true for baseball. It’s been declared at risk of death since it was born. Of course, the precise causes of death vary by decade and person and context. (Lately, you’ve probably heard about problems with attendance, with home runs, with pace of play, and, obviously, with millennials.) Some are far more credible than others. But the core is the same. There’s someone who believes baseball is dying.  https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/08/29/baseball-is-dying-history

I'd start by unifying the game under the banner of NRL, so the game is the same worldwide and gives us a de facto name that does not mention rugby up front, ( yes I know what the R in NRL stands for, but fronting up with the word rugby invites immediate comparison and confusion in potential new fans, whereas hiding it avoids that. 

Then I'd make it more TV friendly and that where three thirds or four quarters and other possible innovations come in.

For those of you with the stamina to have read this far, remember here that I'm not talking about winning old fans back. I think that opportunity has in any meaningful way - thousands not hundreds - long passed us by, though if the game were to advance in the way I'm suggesting, I think there could be thousands of new fans through the turnstiles.

 

 

 

 

 

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No game has a right to exist. You're right that someone has always been saying that baseball is about to die. But in the lifetime that I've been on this board (so, since 2003), baseball has died. That would be British Baseball. A cricket/rounders hybrid that folk like @Wolford6would recognise that was pretty popular in Newport/Cardiff/Vale of Glamorgan and also Liverpool - an annual England v Wales match was played. I think it's now three years since there was regular men's league fixture and there are not really any clubs extent any more. Watching from a distance it took less than ten years to go from popular in its communities to moribund.

So, with that out of the way ...

... the one thing that I really think rugby league needs to do is to stop having so many people trying to run it. How can one sport played in only a handful of locations have so many controlling bodies. So whilst I'm not 100% convinced that it should be the NRL that takes over the global club game, I'm also absolutely sure that a unified body for all professional clubs, wherever they are in the world, is likely to be a necessary evil. Just because it was messed up 25 years ago with Super League doesn't mean it's a permanently bad idea. 

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Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life. (Terry Pratchett)

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THe game needs to be more accessible. If you arent brought up with it in a relatively small geographic area, its not easy to be an RL fan. 

The governance needs changing as someone needs to have an overall view of the game, but the RFL and SL both have their own vested interest. 

Every problem the game has stems from those two major issues. 

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It's a huge amount of change to get the game going in the direction mentioned above and will take investment, in terms of personnel and finance, something we've never been good at. It would be bigger change than the game has ever seen and i just don't see the appetite for that kind of change with the current people involved who are running our game, at administration and club level. Though i whole heartedly agree radical change is needed to have a genuine chance of achieving our potential.

As far as the game itself is concerned i don't think it needs too much tinkering with, just a bit of clarity here and there and a complete alignment across all countries. I know NFL in the past (not sure about now) has adverts running across the top/bottom of the screen while games were being played, and i'm pretty sure the NRL coverage on occasion has this also, albeit usually upcoming TV shows on Fox/Channel 9, so for this reason i'd (personally) want to avoid the 4 quarters idea, if that was the main motivation, giving TV greater room to advertise.

A unified approach to the game across the world would be great, but the appetite for that to happen currently just sits with the fans. The NRL and RFL aren't interested in that. The NRL would never agree to anyone other than themselves governing their game, and you can understand why given the sh*t show we have had over here for god knows how many years. Just look at the International board for a further example of that.


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The game can be more TV-friendly without moving to thirds or quarters by one simple means which is used in Australian Rules football and all the traditional North American sports: stop the clock in dead ball situations and leave it stopped until play resumes.  Those clock stoppages would allow for more TV ad breaks, e.g. after points have been scored.  Another benefit would be that both the spectators at the stadium and the viewers watching on TV would all get a full 40 minutes of play per half, and (crucially for attracting new fans to the game) the viewers wouldn't miss any of the action.

Any concerns about whether the players could cope with a higher work rate would be offset by the breaks in play when time is off and the number of discretionary substitutions allowed per match.

The sport probably does need a new body within it which has a broader focus than the NRL or RFL do now, but neither of those is suited to such a role.  Both the NRL and RFL are focused (one might even say fixated) on protecting what they have in their traditional areas, as the NRL's resistance to reducing the number of clubs in Sydney and the RFL's history of ditching expansion efforts to protect traditional clubs whenever the going got tough illustrate.  The sport needs a game changer, and neither the NRL nor the RFL have shown the ability to be that for the game.

Edited by Big Picture

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The first match I can ever remember going to was in March 1963 and I would suggest that such discussions about the future of the game have been going on even before then. Surely not all the people who have been in charge of the RL in that time have been so incompetent as to not have had some good ideas about any changes and the future of the game, so why might it be that the current crop of administrators could be expected to succeed where the others have "failed" ? (ie Better tv coverage; attracting more crowds, creating teams in "non-heartland" areas).

Yes, as much as I would like to see all of those, perhaps that despite our own love of the game we might have to ultimately realise that such dreams might just be that ... dreams. Could it be that we involved with the game all look at RL though rose-tinted glasses but what is actually needed is to take those off and see the game in the same way as those who are less dedicated to the cause.

If ideas have been put forward for years, even decades, in the past, why might they not have come to fruition ? Were all the suggestions put forward just not good enough, because if they were then I would have thought that they would have reaped benefits for RL well before now.  However, might it be that despite everybody's best efforts, the game is just not a major attraction to the vast majority in the country and it might be the time to just consolidate what we have and let it be enjoyed by those who are truly supportive of it and for whom it is a way of life.

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45 minutes ago, Big Picture said:

The game can be more TV-friendly

TV friendly neans space for advertising so quarters would provide that.

Global rules, TGG uniform as opposed to kits and sport specific pitch markings.

4 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

see the game in the same way as those who are less dedicated to the cause.

Like the people who run clubs all over the globe and came to it without any prior backgorund .... Them?

We just have to look at people as they're possible converts, the wider spread the game, the more magic we can add the more likely they'll se what we see.

 

Edited by Oxford

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3 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

The first match I can ever remember going to was in March 1963 and I would suggest that such discussions about the future of the game have been going on even before then. Surely not all the people who have been in charge of the RL in that time have been so incompetent as to not have had some good ideas about any changes and the future of the game, so why might it be that the current crop of administrators could be expected to succeed where the others have "failed" ? (ie Better tv coverage; attracting more crowds, creating teams in "non-heartland" areas).

Yes, as much as I would like to see all of those, perhaps that despite our own love of the game we might have to ultimately realise that such dreams might just be that ... dreams. Could it be that we involved with the game all look at RL though rose-tinted glasses but what is actually needed is to take those off and see the game in the same way as those who are less dedicated to the cause.

If ideas have been put forward for years, even decades, in the past, why might they not have come to fruition ? Were all the suggestions put forward just not good enough, because if they were then I would have thought that they would have reaped benefits for RL well before now.  However, might it be that despite everybody's best efforts, the game is just not a major attraction to the vast majority in the country and it might be the time to just consolidate what we have and let it be enjoyed by those who are truly supportive of it and for whom it is a way of life.

No doubt there have been and still are some very good people involved in the game at senior levels. I know a few personally. But even with the greatest ideas and desire from some, theres a reluctance from those who truly control the direction of the game to push through real change and, quite importantly, invest in it. 


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6 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

it might be the time to just consolidate what we have and let it be enjoyed by those who are truly supportive of it and for whom it is a way of life.

In which case, see my comment about British Baseball above.

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Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life. (Terry Pratchett)

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Aren’t the NRL, much like us, about to enter a period for negotiating their next rights deal? Leading into that could be the optimum time for unification.

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19 minutes ago, Oxford said:

TV friendly neans space for advertising so quarters would provide that.

Not nearly as well as what I described would though.

15 minutes ago, Hela Wigmen said:

Aren’t the NRL, much like us, about to enter a period for negotiating their next rights deal? Leading into that could be the optimum time for unification.

How exactly is unification of two organizations so focused (or maybe fixated is a better word for it) on protecting what they have in their corners of their respective countries supposed to help?

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32 minutes ago, Oxford said:

TV friendly neans space for advertising so quarters would provide that.

Global rules, TGG uniform as opposed to kits and sport specific pitch markings.

Like the people who run clubs all over the globe and came to it without any prior backgorund .... Them?

We just have to look at people as they're possible converts, the wider spread the game, the more magic we can add the more likely they'll se what we see.

So why hasn't that already happened ? What new ideas can there be that have not already been thought about ?

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34 minutes ago, EastLondonMike said:

No doubt there have been and still are some very good people involved in the game at senior levels. I know a few personally. But even with the greatest ideas and desire from some, theres a reluctance from those who truly control the direction of the game to push through real change and, quite importantly, invest in it. 

Might it be that profit is more important to them rather than the game itself ?

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2 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

Might it be that profit is more important to them rather than the game itself ?

I think there are limits to what they're prepared to do in terms of investment and change etc. And having an extra penny at the bottom of their balance sheet is something they'll always look for when making decisions. From the clubs point of view maybe it's due to a lack of faith in the people making those decisions or their ability to implement them correctly. It's probably quite a circular problem and plenty of things to take into account.

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22 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

So why hasn't that already happened ? What new ideas can there be that have not already been thought about ?

More complex than that, I think. For example, who in the game in say 1900 would have thought that 13 players, 6 tackles, floodlighting, televised games,  video ref and Pooles Pies would have come along creating an environment for the realisation of new ideas. 


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And Terry Holmes too! League was rife with "British Baseball" stars by the looks of it. Terry Holmes was interviewed in one of the videos in the "Rugby League Classics on Youtube" thread that I watched the other day. Think it was Hull KR v Fev.

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1 minute ago, thebrewxi said:

Jim Sullivan was very good at "British" or Welsh Baseball, apparently! 

I only cited baseball because its not related to soccer, not related to rugby of either code, has died and recovered several times, is a fast and physical game. Could have chosen basketball or ice hockey for the comparison. 


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43 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

So why hasn't that already happened ? What new ideas can there be that have not already been thought about ?

Doing it as a whole sport.

Some of the rest have been tried and then put away for no good reason.

53 minutes ago, Big Picture said:

Not nearly as well as what I described would though.

Give over you monkey! 🤣

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Any kind of global coming together would have to come from the UK, as such a thing would not even register on the NRL radar. Either that or through a broadcaster, like SKY, who (i think) are still owned by Fox.

"Heres £'X' million for us (SKY/FOX) to show both the NRL and SL, BUT both comps have to come under one over arching board that overseas the running of the game globally. You sort that out and we'll break open the cheque book." 

Each would have a general manager who report into the governing body. 

Robert Elstone is a big admirer of the NRL, so wouldn't be at all surprised if it was something that had been mentioned internally within SL. Albeit only in passing.


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49 minutes ago, JohnM said:

I only cited baseball because its not related to soccer, not related to rugby of either code, has died and recovered several times, is a fast and physical game. Could have chosen basketball or ice hockey for the comparison. 

It was a good comparison because baseball writers and fans obsess about the upcoming death of baseball.


Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life. (Terry Pratchett)

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16 minutes ago, EastLondonMike said:

Any kind of global coming together would have to come from the UK, as such a thing would not even register on the NRL radar. Either that or through a broadcaster, like SKY, who (i think) are still owned by Fox.

"Heres £'X' million for us (SKY/FOX) to show both the NRL and SL, BUT both comps have to come under one over arching board that overseas the running of the game globally. You sort that out and we'll break open the cheque book." 

Each would have a general manager who report into the governing body. 

Robert Elstone is a big admirer of the NRL, so wouldn't be at all surprised if it was something that had been mentioned internally within SL. Albeit only in passing.

SKy are owned by ComCast now. 

But other than that i agree.

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1 hour ago, RL does what Sky says said:

So why hasn't that already happened ? What new ideas can there be that have not already been thought about ?

New ones.

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1 hour ago, RL does what Sky says said:

So why hasn't that already happened ? What new ideas can there be that have not already been thought about ?

It's not only new ones but there old ideas we just havent executed well.

Internationals for 1.

Expansion for 2.

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