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Massive change needed in Super League, claims its former Creative Director


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So essentially what he was saying is what most people saw when he was appointed. The clubs thought they were bringing him in to work for them and their own interests, but what the game actually needed was someone to make decisions for the good of the competition in spite of those clubs. 

This really emphasises what everyone thinks, that the SL clubs have more power than necessary and in my view draining the sport of its potential by using the Sky TV funds and SL votes to stay afloat and monopolise a place in SL. 

If the competition is going to enlarge it's audience it needs to change this dynamic.

It's a controversial view but my personal opinion is that at least half of the clubs in the competition offer no commercial value whatsoever and the sport needs to deal with that issue or it will become even more insignificant in the national psyche than it already is 

Edited by The Daddy
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TD - I don't think its controversial at all, except for some fans of the clubs you're referring to. In terms of marketing, finance and issues like the salary cap, we've seen that making decisions to support clubs in the short-term has just led to the entire game spinning in ever-decreasing circles. If we're to break the cycle some tough decisions need to be made.

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The article simply confirms what many already knew. The self interest of a few has and will continue to damage the game as a whole.

SL clubs should not be running the game but they won’t give up deciding their own individual destiny without a fight. The issue is who could have the power to take control and push through changes that would be opposed by those SL clubs adversely affected? That would mean some clubs would have to put the greater good of the game ahead of their personal situation.

 I can’t see a solution to this conundrum.

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3 hours ago, The Daddy said:

It's a controversial view but my personal opinion is that at least half of the clubs in the competition offer no commercial value whatsoever and the sport needs to deal with that issue or it will become even more insignificant in the national psyche than it already is 

You are certainly correct in that, but there's no possible way to change things within the existing structure.

Not only are any potential replacement clubs just as commercially weak as the weakest half (or more) of the current SL clubs, but the commercial value of even the strongest SL clubs is open to question if (to give just one example) we take a good look at Wigan's financial results in recent years which have been nothing to write home about.  Like it or not, that's the way things are for the game in the UK presently.

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Despite what some may say, they had the chance for change with the Canadian clubs coming on the scene. With the demise of  the WP I think all of that is lost.

I remember in the past all clubs had a board and they decided what was to be. These one man outfits are holding their game back and also the lower leagues who should be getting some of the Sky money.

Cannot see any change  until the above set up changes.

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1 hour ago, RayCee said:

The article simply confirms what many already knew. The self interest of a few has and will continue to damage the game as a whole.

SL clubs should not be running the game but they won’t give up deciding their own individual destiny without a fight. The issue is who could have the power to take control and push through changes that would be opposed by those SL clubs adversely affected? That would mean some clubs would have to put the greater good of the game ahead of their personal situation.

 I can’t see a solution to this conundrum.

Private equity could. Apart from the cash, this is possibly the most attractive thing about PE. It might force Super League to think more strategically as a collective instead of a collection of short-termist individual clubs.

A bit like how Murdoch’s loot concentrated minds to force through major changes 25 years ago. Except with PE they’ll want their money back, so they can’t pi$$ it away so readily this time.

Come to think of it, a change in governance structure could be a condition of investment by PE.

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1 hour ago, Man of Kent said:

Private equity could. Apart from the cash, this is possibly the most attractive thing about PE. It might force Super League to think more strategically as a collective instead of a collection of short-termist individual clubs.

A bit like how Murdoch’s loot concentrated minds to force through major changes 25 years ago. Except with PE they’ll want their money back, so they can’t pi$$ it away so readily this time.

Come to think of it, a change in governance structure could be a condition of investment by PE.

PE's focus is always even more short-term than that of the SL clubs. It's not the answer to a problem that requires a long-term vision.

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4 hours ago, Man of Kent said:

Private equity could. Apart from the cash, this is possibly the most attractive thing about PE. It might force Super League to think more strategically as a collective instead of a collection of short-termist individual clubs.

A bit like how Murdoch’s loot concentrated minds to force through major changes 25 years ago. Except with PE they’ll want their money back, so they can’t pi$$ it away so readily this time.

Come to think of it, a change in governance structure could be a condition of investment by PE.

What will the money be spent on ?

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3 hours ago, nadera78 said:

PE's focus is always even more short-term than that of the SL clubs. It's not the answer to a problem that requires a long-term vision.

But it would surely force clubs to act in the best interests of the sport rather than, say, Michael Carter worrying about whether Wakefield will have to spend another 50p on the gas bill. 

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6 hours ago, Man of Kent said:

Private equity could. Apart from the cash, this is possibly the most attractive thing about PE. It might force Super League to think more strategically as a collective instead of a collection of short-termist individual clubs.

A bit like how Murdoch’s loot concentrated minds to force through major changes 25 years ago. Except with PE they’ll want their money back, so they can’t pi$$ it away so readily this time.

Come to think of it, a change in governance structure could be a condition of investment by PE.

Short term gain. Long term pain

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Having worked in PE, I think they would want two things:

1. A greater geographical spread of the game, including a move into what might be considered more affluent areas to maximise advertising potential

2. A narrative throughout the season that is more than just four clubs dominating

The upside for RL in the coming digital world is that sports rights will only become more valuable as  more potential broadcasters enter the market but they do need to be more than a cluster of teams in a confined geographical area playing each other four times a year

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32 minutes ago, The Future is League said:

Short term gain. Long term pain

I'm open-minded.

I realise PE are glorified loan sharks who will plunder revenue. On the other hand, this whole forum is essentially about how British RL can't look, won't look beyond the end of its nose in terms of commercial strategy. Well, PE might change that. 

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Hicken is on the money here. He's not some kind of alien to the sport or the region either, he's produced excellent documentaries/docu-series' on on RL, Leeds Rhinos, and Leeds United, among others.

Perhaps once again we find a flaw in Elstone's style too though. Whilst Hicken describes attempting to pass changes as "frustrating" and Elstone's need to find policies that had majority support, does anyone have any inclination as to what he would have done if he didn't have those problems. What solutions or grand ideas did he have? I feel Elstone's strategy relied heavily on keeping things close to his chest rather than stating any vision in public - I presume he had a reason for that but he's the one out of a job so it is reasonable to question it now.

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2 minutes ago, Tommygilf said:

Hicken is on the money here. He's not some kind of alien to the sport or the region either, he's produced excellent documentaries/docu-series' on on RL, Leeds Rhinos, and Leeds United, among others.

Perhaps once again we find a flaw in Elstone's style too though. Whilst Hicken describes attempting to pass changes as "frustrating" and Elstone's need to find policies that had majority support, does anyone have any inclination as to what he would have done if he didn't have those problems. What solutions or grand ideas did he have? I feel Elstone's strategy relied heavily on keeping things close to his chest rather than stating any vision in public - I presume he had a reason for that but he's the one out of a job so it is reasonable to question it now.

This is quite correct. There were a lot of mixed messages in what Elstone did and said and for all of that its still impossible to say what his vision or strategy actually was. At first I thought he was going to be a progressive sort that would make the changes needed but that seemed all talk really and his actions went further and further away from that as time went on. Apart from pretty cosmetic changes not much fundamentally changed. I think the game's problems go much deeper than new monikers or logos. Its pretty hard to get support and bring people along when no one knows what you are trying to do or what the end game is.

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14 hours ago, Total Rugby League said:

Super League’s former creative director Lee Hicken believes massive change is needed in the running and governance of the competition if its audience and profile...

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In Lee Hicken's view "Super League requires massive change for crowds and interest to grow"

Which begs the question "How much do Super League clubs do to make local people aware in their towns or cities that there is a Super League club in their town/city?"

Making people aware for a start would only be a small step, but it would be start. The days of putting a poster on the inside of a pub window advertises your next home game and hoping people will just turn up are long gone.

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14 hours ago, Total Rugby League said:

Super League’s former creative director Lee Hicken believes massive change is needed in the running and governance of the competition if its audience and profile...

View the full article

For example ... (there may be answers to these that I've missed) ... who is the Interim SL CEO? are there genuine moves to merge RFL and SL back together? who now has responsibility for the TV and other commercial deals?

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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17 minutes ago, The Future is League said:

In Lee Hicken's view "Super League requires massive change for crowds and interest to grow"

Which begs the question "How much do Super League clubs do to make local people aware in their towns or cities that there is a Super League club in their town/city?"

Making people aware for a start would only be a small step, but it would be start. The days of putting a poster on the inside of a pub window advertises your next home game and hoping people will just turn up are long gone.

Can imagine when you have a chairman of a club in both a city and wider MDC with no professional football  or non-RL sports clubs stating that his aim is to be the second most popular sport in the North its a tough ask...

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7 minutes ago, gingerjon said:

For example ... (there may be answers to these that I've missed) ... who is the Interim SL CEO? are there genuine moves to merge RFL and SL back together? who now has responsibility for the TV and other commercial deals?

Communication is there with marketing where we pay so little attention too in my opinion

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7 minutes ago, Tommygilf said:

Can imagine when you have a chairman of a club in both a city and wider MDC with no professional football  or non-RL sports clubs stating that his aim is to be the second most popular sport in the North its a tough ask...

We both know who you are referring too here and they still expect fans to just turn up.

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1 hour ago, Damien said:

This is quite correct. There were a lot of mixed messages in what Elstone did and said and for all of that its still impossible to say what his vision or strategy actually was. At first I thought he was going to be a progressive sort that would make the changes needed but that seemed all talk really and his actions went further and further away from that as time went on. Apart from pretty cosmetic changes not much fundamentally changed. I think the game's problems go much deeper than new monikers or logos. Its pretty hard to get support and bring people along when no one knows what you are trying to do or what the end game is.

Exactly, we can all speculate but not know for certain.

I certainly feel he was targeting a younger demographic, not kids but 20s to early 40s, indeed bringing Hicken on board was part of that. The image he was trying to present felt more "cult northern microbrewery with an indy vibe" rather than "Working Mens Club, young uns have no taste but this'll get them in ere look". I definitely would agree there is a market there in a sort of Northern (and indeed Southern) indy-culture type audience for whom premier league football is a bit plasticky and lower division football is just depressing. Arguably that has been pitch for Rugby League for a while, but no-one thus far had successfully dragged it into the 21st century - its no surprise that the "Out of Your League" podcast team was the one chosen to be the official face of the comp, despite its at times irreverant and non RL vibe as well as a tendency to swear. Additionally I feel he would have had a totally different and hugely positive view of Toronto if they were playing out of Liverpool for example, as the crowd mixture and audience they had carved out in their city was almost exactly what he was aiming for the sport to do in England. Maybe I'm more sensitive to that because it is the demographic I am in, but I think the overall point stands and it is my demographic that the sport as whole is struggling in most.

Did he want to copy F1 and have a docuseries? I know it sounds ridiculous but there are some parallels and with the "We Play League" series they arguably tried. A sport which on field suffers from dominance of a handful of teams - so you employ Netflix to not only shine a light on the less spoken about candidates, but create stories that are arguably more interesting. For example Haas have been average to poor for most of the time Netflix have followed the sport, yet their team have been one of the most well liked out of the show which has brought the characters in the team to life in both angry and happy moments. Imagine seeing the conversation where Pearson sacked Lee Radford or when Wakefield were struggling to get their players to agree to pay cuts days before the season kicks off. Its dramatised, but its designed for a market who are interested by that to then take in the wider sport.

Beyond that, who knows. Did he want to scrap P/R? Did he want to introduce a hybrid system to incubate some clubs? Did he want a bigger League? Did he want growth in specific cities? He never came out and told anyone anything, never set the agenda, so we don't have a clue.

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A load of rubbish predictably spouted here.

The whole RL structure is crocked, from top to bottom, and all we get is endless wittering about SL and Elstone.

Loadsamoney was shoveled to the lower leagues with the last TV deal and it's gone down the toilet.   But hey, the ills of the RL are all down to SL...  

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5 hours ago, Rupert Prince said:

A load of rubbish predictably spouted here.

The whole RL structure is crocked, from top to bottom, and all we get is endless wittering about SL and Elstone.

Loadsamoney was shoveled to the lower leagues with the last TV deal and it's gone down the toilet.   But hey, the ills of the RL are all down to SL...  

Could you find the time,please,to expand on how you conclude that ' loadsamoney was shovelled to the lower leagues... and it's gone down the toilet'?

I believe around 70k per year went to League 1 clubs.How would you have spent that amount WITHOUT it going down the toilet?

As this is a thread about Super League - and perhaps,like Ian Lenagan,believe all the money should go to Super League clubs.How should Super League clubs then spend that money to prevent the toilet becoming involved?

How should lower leagues then proceed...?

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