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A London Strategy


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Slightly inspired by the recent London Broncos thread but also the news that Brixton Bulls have been awarded £4300 as part of the RLWC21 funds and seeing Newham Dockers restarting training In East London on Twitter last night, I was pondering whether there should be a specific strategy for sustaining and growing RL in London*.

This is not an invite to rehash all the problems of the game down here or the expansion v heartland debate but rather to consider whether there’s value in such an approach and what form it could take. 

My view is it should happen. I also think it should be bottom up. 

Through the London amateur clubs, fans of the game here (not all of whom watch it live) and the two league teams there’s quite a few “assets” the sport could draw upon, they’re just never bought together for the good of the game. It seems to me that bringing these groups together could generate ideas and strategies to help the sport. It would be interesting to know, for example, what skills/contacts fans have that could make a difference In respect of marketing. 

There are enough people currently engaged with the sport in London to make this approach worthwhile but not so many to make it unwieldy. 
 

*I realise you could make a case for other regional strategies - the South West for example but I live in London! 
 


 

 

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Great topic. 
 

ive been away from England for a fair while now, but it’s always weird to me when we mention London. The game is at least 40 years old there now, but you are right, it’s very much drought and flood when it comes to popularity.

 

personally, I often wonder if the lack of inter London rivalries is part of this?

 

football is popular, but there is no London team, it’s popularity was born from local communities playing other local communities. Something that they still call ‘theirs’

 

Not that I would want to, because the UK is a nightmare to grow the game in because of societal pre dispositions and opinions of our sport, but, if I were looking at a strategy to make league a mainstream sport in London:

 

I would split a map based on the established rivalries, or community divides, let’s start with north and south of the river for example. 
 

that would be my top level, maximum support base. My state of origin if you will.

Below that, Work out the same formula and make sure that there is a population density in that area to support a club, or clubs.

if the rivalries are there, and especially if league becomes the summer sport to display that, I think there is a fighting chance.

 

finally though, and most difficult, would be to find people who know our game, and want to make a difference win their community through sport. 
 

use any funding to employ a small central team who can support these people to do what they want to, to get people playing the sport. Take away barriers for things like admin, or knowing how to do branding, or how to write a sponsorship brochure.

centrally manage the business side of our game, and make it easy for the people who want to grow clubs to grow them.

 

most importantly, once clubs are established, close the door to rivals threatening their turf. Too often small clubs have a falling out, resulting in a break away club competing for the same people in the same place. This usually results in the demise of both clubs, or worse, the dreaded merger needs to happen. So I would say, never allow a situation where that is possible to happen, unless both clubs come to the governors wanting to do so. In that case, you would most likely end up with three strong clubs across two ability levels. 
 

That’s my ten pence worth. Great topic, and hopefully London specific enough 😉

 

 

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Money (lots of it), time and strategy. A Melbourne Storm strategy.

Without the above nothing will change. There was a time back around 2012-15 when the amateur and junior game had some resource and some foundations were being put in place, thanks in part to lots of good work and perseverance by the likes of Dan Steel. 

Once the funding for the game in London stopped it was left to club volunteers to organise and run.

I've not been involved in the amateur game down here for a couple of years now, so can't speak on how different things are at the moment, and whether the landscape looks a bit better or not.

Though i've always felt the game of Rugby League in the UK will not reach the heights it could unless London is turned into a success, without it we'll always be the under dog fighting for the scraps.

For the game to succeed, London needs to succeed.

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If funding, volunteers etc could be found then a bottom up approach and a top down approach working in conjunction with each other would be my preferred strategy. 

Due to travel times in London and how densely populated it is I'd like to see some smaller localised leagues in a few areas of London. Maybe NE, NW, SE and SW leagues with a North and South league above that and London Premier above that for the more serious teams. Maybe even link London Premier with the Southern Conference.

As far as representative teams go then it could follow the league structures with regional,  North and South then a London Rep team.

If even more money could be found a similar structure for schools could be used but maybe keep it more regionalised for leagues and use a knockout tournament for North, South and then maybe a London knockout tournament

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I'd have a development officer assigned to London and the South East as a priority. There's a strong amateur game already and a good academy set up to progress to. Plenty to build on in a key area of growth - the priority has to be facilities and players.

There's an argument to suggest that London Broncos and Skolars should come under some form of central RFL/SL control but frankly I don't have much faith in those organisations financially.

Internationals, in London, as a further priority. We consistently get good crowds there. I'd even suggest that we'd play the likes of France and Wales there too (if we couldn't play those nations away from home). 

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35 minutes ago, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

Splitting League One into two leagues, League One South and League One North, with new semi pro London based teams in League One South. This would provide a player pathway for young players in the capital. 

Someone always says this, so today I'll be the southern based fan who writes the response that always comes next...

Amateur clubs can play in whatever league you like, no problem with that. As long as League One is semi pro then regionalising it will be an utter disaster for the southern clubs (both the existing ones and those being created).

From the Oxford experience, the travelling to the north was a pain in the neck but gates of locals (never mind travelling away support) went through the floor when we weren't playing "proper" clubs. Hunslet rather than South Wales was worth 100 on the gate, when the average gate in the first season was about 200. That's a quantitative difference.

It's exactly the same issue as Torontonians keep telling us is the case with Toronto (and why I believe them). There is no player or fan interest in Toronto without playing in an established league. If Oxford was going to be playing Hemel, St Albans, Swindon, etc then it would never have got off the ground as a semi pro club. Player pathways are all very well, but about the most obvious pathway if you did that would be for any halfway decent player to get signed from the southern clubs to go and play at a proper standard in the northern ones. The southern cubs would be a nursery (explicit or otherwise) for the northern ones. If you're going to do that you might as well be an amateur club in an amateur league.

In an ideal work we wouldn't start from here, but here's where we are. You want to kill Skolars, Cov and West Wales, and have any other semi pro southern club dead at birth? Put them in a League 1 South.

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Many years ago, probably around the turn of the century I came across a very interesting 4 or 5 page article that I am sure - or as sure as can be - was written by an academic.  The focus was to critically appraise the oft repeated phrase ‘The RFL pumps thousands each year in London (not just the club but the area as a whole)’.

From what I remember the article was extremely critical of the role of the RFL in having no strategy for the growth of the game in London and had not provide sufficient support or funding to grow the grassroots.  It basically said the game in London was left to itself to develop.

It could have been in League Express but I wouldn’t know how to look back 20 years ago.

P.S. I forgot to add that some of the conclusions may still be relevant for the future growth of the game in London

 

Edited by Adelaide Tiger
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50 minutes ago, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

Splitting League One into two leagues, League One South and League One North, with new semi pro London based teams in League One South. This would provide a player pathway for young players in the capital. 

That’s tantamount to killing Rugby League expansion in the UK. Congratulations. 

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Is there an organisation called the London Rugby League? If so, can anyone here list its member clubs?

In the same way that the expansionists encourage/expect heartland pro clubs to do more or criticise them for not doing enough, to grow and embed the game in their localities, we should encourage all amateur league area administrators to be doing the same thing.

Its about time the games administrators at all levels recognised and acknowledged this essential element of their administrative work.

Stop whining about the RFL and start talking to each other about what you can do to swell the ranks. If you need guidance, contact the North East and ask them for advice.

Keep stats on participation numbers and do whatever you can to ensure that those numbers increase year on year.

Look at what other nations in Europe and the America's are doing on their own .

Look at what the likes of Pulga has achieved as a catalyst. He's not waiting for the RFL, or the RLEF to do it for him.

Our existing administrators must unearth similar people, fans of the game who are willing to take on some kind of development role.

Its just not enough to collect the membership fees and compile a fixture list, these are mere maintenance tasks. Some time and effort must be spent stimulating and promoting growth. Form two ''departments'' if you like, ''maintenance'' and ''growth''

Let me tell you this, that part of the work (growth), is where all the excitement is and where any sense of achievement is to be had.

It's so frustrating when so many good ideas are generated on a forum like this and no-one actually moves to put them into action.

 

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17 minutes ago, Adelaide Tiger said:

Many years ago, probably around the turn of the century I came across a very interesting 4 or 5 page article that I am sure - or as sure as can be - was written by an academic.  The focus was to critically appraise the oft repeated phrase ‘The RFL pumps thousands each year in London (not just the club but the area as a whole)’.

From what I remember the article was extremely critical of the role of the RFL in having no strategy for the growth of the game in London and had not provide sufficient support or funding to grow the grassroots.  It basically said the game in London was left to itself to develop.

I have tried many times to find this article but failed miserably.  It could have been in League Express but I wouldn’t know how to look back 20 years ago.

 

I'd agree there does not appear to have been a 'top down' strategy in recent years, which is why I'm wondering about a bottom up approach.

To take one suggestion from above posts - a development officer. This is obviously a sensible idea and would create a single contact point for the game in the capital including for the media but also all the clubs. However, it is very unlikely that this would be funded by the RFL (?) so if there was a way of bringing the game together, including supporters and people thought this was a good idea: could the same group find ways to fund, including crowd funding or grants or sponsorship?

Another idea (I'm trying to be practical): we have a formal Broncos supporters club and an informal Skolars one - could we create another one for London RL Fans, not club based but bringing people together (in addition to the club ones)? I take the point about rivalry but to be honest I'm probably typical in wishing Broncos well. 

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10 minutes ago, fighting irish said:

 

It's so frustrating when so many good ideas are generated on a forum like this and no-one actually moves to put them into action.

 

I agree and to be clear if enough people are interested I would be happy to contribute to trying to build something. 

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1 hour ago, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

Splitting League One into two leagues, League One South and League One North, with new semi pro London based teams in League One South. This would provide a player pathway for young players in the capital. 

Maybe we could get teams in Oxford and Gloucester to join, oh we did that one earlier.

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1 hour ago, Gooleboy said:

Maybe we could get teams in Oxford and Gloucester to join, oh we did that one earlier.

Yes and they are (sadly) examples of what can go wrong if you don't have a well thought out strategy - eg, where will players come from for a competitive team*, but my question is: what can we actually do given the reality we have?

*This question was asked at the time but not addressed as far as I know.

Edited by EssexRL
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55 minutes ago, fighting irish said:

It's so frustrating when so many good ideas are generated on a forum like this and no-one actually moves to put them into action.

 

This is the first forum I have been Involved in for any topic and have been blown away by the breadth and depth of the discussions. To the point after that recent `Future of the scrum` thread actually suggested to one of the long term posters that someone should collate the information in that thread and present it to League HQ , he thought I was joking.

I really believe there is gold in this forum, sometimes it just needs a little sieving. 

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4 minutes ago, The Rocket said:

This is the first forum I have been Involved in for any topic and have been blown away by the breadth and depth of the discussions. To the point after that recent `Future of the scrum` thread actually suggested to one of the long term posters that someone should collate the information in that thread and present it to League HQ , he thought I was joking.

I really believe there is gold in this forum, sometimes it just needs a little sieving. 

WONDERFUL STUFF ROCKET 

BTW have you ever met him when he was coaching Barrow back in 1989/90 I met him and invited him to come to Perpignan with myself and my late parents to watch the France v GB Test match (The last time France won a series on points difference in the return match at Leeds) anyway he accepted and we had a great time over 4/5 days.

This was also the weekend that I met Jacques Jorda (Ex French national coach) and his wife Sylvia who have remained a family friends now for over 30 years.

 

Paul

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19 minutes ago, Man of Kent said:

Play at a proper stadium with decent facilities.

I have a particular interest in London because I believe they have a lot of similar potential to Melbourne Storm, but with the big advantage of already having a fairly healthy footprint. Melbourne really had nothing.

The two things that stuck in my mind when I quizzed some long term London Broncos supporters was :

1) a decent ground;

2) some sustained success.

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Do what Newcastle Thunder do and ensure pro vs amateur fixtures do not clash, so one can support the other. Then, give them turns at being included in the whole matchday event, either walking out with the players, playing a mini match at half time, or a curtain raiser. It is little "tricks" like these can easily add 100 or more to your attendance each match. (25 players, parents and a sibling, for example) 

Thunder have been doing this and their crowds are steadily growing, despite not having had all that much on-field success. 

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2 minutes ago, langpark said:

Do what Newcastle Thunder do and ensure pro vs amateur fixtures do not clash, so one can support the other. Then, give them turns at being included in the whole matchday event, either walking out with the players, playing a mini match at half time, or a curtain raiser. It is little "tricks" like these can easily add 100 or more to your attendance each match. (25 players, parents and a sibling, for example) 

Thunder have been doing this and their crowds are steadily growing, despite not having had all that much on-field success. 

As I said there is gold in these forums.

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If London have been doing what they’ve been doing over the past fifteen or so years without development coaches for the majority of those fifteen years, imagine what more they could have done with a series of development coaches across all parts of London and surrounding counties. They’re doing a great job really in terms of player development, with a series of players across Super League and in their team in the Championship, so you can only deduce that we’d see more players if there was a number of development coaches appointed. 

As for London, it would be great to see the London we saw in the early years of Super League that finished 3rd and had good crowds but are we realistically getting that without giving them allowances that they had then regarding the quota spaces. You’re also going to need to find someone willing to pour millions into renting stadiums (Ealing is nice but it’s not a Super League level ground that you could develop), advertising and marketing and throwing money at big names to fill their squad. Let’s be honest, that’s unlikely to happen. The RFL doesn’t have the money to start a joint venture of any kind either. I’m not sure on how money can assigned if the game was to seek private equity but that could be one of very few ways to get some money into London. 

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I have to take exception on the Expansion v Heartlands tag, Rugby League has been played in London, on & off, since the 1930's, London should be considered a heartland area (Although they have had different names), Fulham RLFC was started in 1980, but there was a London ARLFC League started in 1970, surely 50 years should consider them heartland now as well?

The south-east of England is a hot-bed of talent, if we choose to tap it, the RFL don't choose it, they stick to the M62 areas for their own personal travel arraignments. The Hemel team were ignored by Red Hall because the were surplus to requirements in their eyes, Hemel are an important team in the M1 link between London and the north, just like Coventry.

London is Heartlands now.

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1 hour ago, The Rocket said:

I have a particular interest in London because I believe they have a lot of similar potential to Melbourne Storm, but with the big advantage of already having a fairly healthy footprint. Melbourne really had nothing.

The two things that stuck in my mind when I quizzed some long term London Broncos supporters was :

1) a decent ground;

2) some sustained success.

Melbourne’s success could be repeated in any city, London, Newcastle, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dublin, Toronto, any of them.
 

Melbourne was not a rugby league area, they are based between 800km and 2000km from the other NRL teams.

If Melbourne can make a success of it, in those circumstances, it shows any city could have a successful rugby league club,    but it requires substantial investment over a long period of time.

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2 hours ago, EssexRL said:

I'd agree there does not appear to have been a 'top down' strategy in recent years, which is why I'm wondering about a bottom up approach.

To take one suggestion from above posts - a development officer. This is obviously a sensible idea and would create a single contact point for the game in the capital including for the media but also all the clubs. However, it is very unlikely that this would be funded by the RFL (?) so if there was a way of bringing the game together, including supporters and people thought this was a good idea: could the same group find ways to fund, including crowd funding or grants or sponsorship?

Another idea (I'm trying to be practical): we have a formal Broncos supporters club and an informal Skolars one - could we create another one for London RL Fans, not club based but bringing people together (in addition to the club ones)? I take the point about rivalry but to be honest I'm probably typical in wishing Broncos well. 

Am I right in thinking there's a London RL Foundation? Foundations are the best place to start things. SkyTry has been a great initiative, helping to drive participation, with the Foundations being at the forefront of leading this development in areas and directing participants from schools to clubs. Foundations are key because they are independent, have charitable status and thus can seek funds from all sorts of areas - businesses etc. 

This should be at the forefront of any strategy to developing the game.............it has been for the Thunder

Edited by DoubleD
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