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League Restructure Thread (Merged Threads)


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On 08/08/2021 at 13:03, whatmichaelsays said:

I agree, and I was specifically taking exception to @Martyn Sadler's comment that it's "people like him who really matter". I think that attitude is dated, insular, unaspiring and, frankly, a bit arrogant. 

The people who "really matter" in this are the people who, on paper, could be engaged by RL but, for whatever reason, aren't. People who maybe have access to Sky Sports, or may be within easy reach of RL in person but, for one reason or another, decide to watch or do something else. 

Those are the people who "really matter" because, above all else, they outnumber us quite significantly and honestly, I think the number of households in RL towns who would either take out or cancel a Sky subscription based on whether their team is in SL or not is so small and insignificant that it would barely register as a rounding error. What Sky are really looking at here is the volume and quality of the audience we provide.

Getting people sitting on sofas to watch RL is not contingent on where our teams are based. It's contingent on how good that content is. If the argument against a non-UK team is "Sky doesn't sell dishes there", we're really showing a lack of confidence in what is supposedly "TTG". 

My "really matter" comment was made in relation to Sky subscriptions, not in a wider sense.

You seem to misunderstand that it's a realistic comment, not an arrogant one.

Clearly it's vital for Rugby League to broaden its audience.

But unless you have information from the inner sanctums of Sky that I'm not party to, then your comment about subscription information "barely registering" is fanciful. My information is that Sky watch their subscription database like a hawk. In discussions about the next contract the dedicated Rugby League subscription numbers were the top item on the agenda.

Having said that, I think there is clearly a great scope for Sky and Rugby League to cooperate in providing a product with wider appeal.

But in the short term that will have little impact on the amount Sky is willing to pay for the contract.

 

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2 minutes ago, Martyn Sadler said:

My "really matter" comment was made in relation to Sky subscriptions, not in a wider sense.

You seem to misunderstand that it's a realistic comment, not an arrogant one.

Clearly it's vital for Rugby League to broaden its audience.

But unless you have information from the inner sanctums of Sky that I'm not party to, then your comment about subscription information "barely registering" is fanciful. My information is that Sky watch their subscription database like a hawk. In discussions about the next contract the dedicated Rugby League subscription numbers were the top item on the agenda.

Having said that, I think there is clearly a great scope for Sky and Rugby League to cooperate in providing a product with wider appeal.

But in the short term that will have little impact on the amount Sky is willing to pay for the contract.

 

How do they know who is subscribing for RL?

If it is just the people who watch RL regularly, I would argue that pushing it around the schedule works to the detriment of SL. I have mentioned before - I am struggling to keep up with when games are on at the minute! For a sport that doesn't get wall to wall coverage, I think it really helps to have set slots - whether that is Thursday and Friday evening, Friday and Saturday evening or something else. In that respect, I seems like the darts have that pretty much locked down, and even when there isn't live darts they tend to have something on the TV on a Thursday evening. 

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13 hours ago, Griff said:

Well, it could be about winning League 1, of course.

If it was just about winning promotion, finishing second would be just as good as finishing first.

Shows the lack of any thought. Like I said elsewhere, just name it the " we don't give a toss about you clubs" league.

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23 minutes ago, David Dockhouse Host said:

Quality of the teams and players don't transpire to the quality of the game.  I've seen some brilliant championship games and some dull NRL games.

Entertainment and quality are not always hand in hand 

If that was the case, then why are Sky wanting SL reduced to 10 teams?

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3 minutes ago, Wakefield Ram said:

If that was the case, then why are Sky wanting SL reduced to 10 teams?

Save them money on production costs?

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 hours ago, fighting irish said:

Martin, I've read your paper.

I think the idea has real merit.

I remember the old days, when a high profile (RaRa) team would visit a local junior club and the whole town would turn out to watch them. 

I have to say that it's such a radical idea, such a huge change, that I'm nervous of a possible negative outcome.

I say this because of the unforeseen problem, where interest in the Middle 8's undermined the SuperLeague playoffs.

It would be great if we could run a 'virtual trial' and see how it behaved over time.

Let's bring in AI to try it out?

May I ask, have you had any response from the SL/RFL to your paper? 

I didn't think for a minute that my proposal would be adopted, but I've had a strong response from some Rugby League club bosses.

Those who have understood the rationale, which ultimately is about unifying the game, have inevitably tended to be the most positive about it.

The RFL and Super League are committed to their 10 and 10 model, however.

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11 minutes ago, Wakefield Ram said:

If that was the case, then why are Sky wanting SL reduced to 10 teams?

Not sure Sky are, they've asked for it to be sorted, have they said they want ten teams specifically? 

The spread of talent is more important than perceived standard in creating a product that's attractive to watch.

If it's true we can create an even more attractive product if we went to 8 teams 

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1 minute ago, David Dockhouse Host said:

Not sure Sky are, they've asked for it to be sorted, have they said they want ten teams specifically? 

The spread of talent is more important than perceived standard in creating a product that's attractive to watch.

If it's true we can create an even more attractive product if we went to 8 teams 

As I understand it, Sky have said they want an improved, more consistent product and the RFL has responded with its current proposal.

As someone else has pointed out, however, the quality of a match and the entertainment value are not always the same thing.

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So assuming all the gossip is right and it will be two funded divisions of 10 each and the rest cut lose; who do we think will be in the top 10? Who will miss out?

Will sky really want a top10 where 2 of them are French? Surely all of Cov, London Skolars, and the 2 welsh clubs wont make the cut so they will need to go amateur again which might finish them. Will Newcastle, or even London, make the cut? Could they be trying to organise a Super League South like the women's game with a bit of extra negotiated cash?

Lots of possibilities, but for expansionists I dont see any of them playing out at all well.

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14 minutes ago, Martyn Sadler said:

I didn't think for a minute that my proposal would be adopted, but I've had a strong response from some Rugby League club bosses.

Those who have understood the rationale, which ultimately is about unifying the game, have inevitably tended to be the most positive about it.

The RFL and Super League are committed to their 10 and 10 model, however.

Good. Eliteism, Not Communism!

When Wakefield are finally relegated, the game will be making progress in my book.

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1 hour ago, Martyn Sadler said:

Then all you have to do is explain how we are going to tempt others to watch.

Everyone accepts that we would like to grow our base, but ideally without losing our existing viewers.

I don't "have" to explain anything. I'm not on the RL pay-roll. However, I will indulge with six points just off the bat. 

  • I think the sport needs to invest more heavily in digital content. We have incredible stories to tell and create great content on the field, but it is terrible at capturing that content and telling that story. RL needs to really understand how channels like social media actually work (I mean, the clubs/RFL/SLE have only had 15 years to work out how to use Twitter and 17 to figure out how Facebook works), to build an audience that it can monetise and sell for more than a delivery of stuffed-crust pepperonis. 
  • On a related point, I think the sport needs to make it easier for people to follow and "buy" the sport if they aren't in or near the heartlands. That includes improved media relations, improved storytelling, improved merchandising and better use of digital media to break through our geographic limitations.  
  • The sport needs to improve it's overall image. It needs to look carefully at how it presents itself and make it easy for Sky and the media to make our games look like vibrant, exciting events. We need to better media-train our players so that they can show their personality, without saying or doing something stupid on social media. 
  • I think the sport needs to reduce the length of the league to: 
    • a) create space in the calendar for some form of international/rep competition.
    • b) to create space for alternative formats that could engage different audience demographics.
    • c) reduce the number of 'meaningless' games and to improve overall quality. 
    • d) improve player welfare and reduce the workload on the playing talent. 
  • I think the sport needs to invest in short-form versions of the game to encourage participation (particularly casual participation) - reducing the commitment level required to play. 
  • I think the sport needs to invest in low and non-contact versions to encourage participation amid growing parental concerns around head injuries, as well as the fact that the growing trend towards insecure work (gig economy, zero-hour contracts, etc) mean that adult players can't afford to get injured. 

Nobody is talking about upsetting our existing viewers, or taking away the RL that they know and love. What this is about is ensuring that RL caters to different tastes and adapts to the changing markets that it operates in. We can't just expect people to mould into whatever we decide an RL fan should look like and what they should enjoy.  

1 hour ago, Martyn Sadler said:

My "really matter" comment was made in relation to Sky subscriptions, not in a wider sense.

You seem to misunderstand that it's a realistic comment, not an arrogant one.

Clearly it's vital for Rugby League to broaden its audience.

But unless you have information from the inner sanctums of Sky that I'm not party to, then your comment about subscription information "barely registering" is fanciful. My information is that Sky watch their subscription database like a hawk. In discussions about the next contract the dedicated Rugby League subscription numbers were the top item on the agenda.

Having said that, I think there is clearly a great scope for Sky and Rugby League to cooperate in providing a product with wider appeal.

But in the short term that will have little impact on the amount Sky is willing to pay for the contract.

 

I don't believe I'm misunderstanding anything and I'm not suggesting that Sky don't watch their subscriber numbers. 

Your point seemed to be that any future structure or decisions on who is in the Super League would be influenced on the markets in which Sky operates. My point is that I don't believe that is anywhere near as influential as you perhaps think. I don't think that enough Sky subscriptions rely on RL content and I don't think that there are enough households in whichever RL town you care to mention that would decide to subscribe or cancel Sky subscriptions to register beyond what Sky probably already sees in a normal customer acquisition and churn cycle.

Therefore, if RL can't get to the point where enough subscriptions rely on RL, it can at least get to a point where it increases the audience that tunes in to watch RL. Our aim is to not turn people into avid RL fans like you or I, but to simply get to a point where RL is something that people are prepared to sit down and watch with enough regularity that it demonstrates to Sky that we offer something to their existing subscriber base. I don't think, for example, there are many Sky subscriptions that rely on darts, but darts has built up enough of a TV audience to command enough of it's attention. 

That's why people like you or I aren't the ones that "really matter". We're important, but we're not the most important. The people who "really matter" are the people who, on paper at least, could be engaged with RL, have access to RL content but, for whatever reason, aren't. What "really matters" is that, when the summer era of rugby league started with Bull/CougarMania and huge family audiences, we now have clubs like Widnes admitting that they have fewer than 200 kids on their season ticket list. What "really matters" is that in an era where people have far more distractions vying for their attention and leisure dollar, RL seems reluctant to respond to what they want. That's what I think Sky is most worried about.  

Edited by whatmichaelsays
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16 hours ago, Tommygilf said:

I'm actually in favour of limiting the number of academies, or at least serious reform of that part of the game.

Do you not consider that at least SL clubs should run an academy Tommy?

There were some applications for the next Academy Licensing period that were turned down and a couple of existing academies axed by the RFL till the about turn, one applicant in particular had £400k set aside to commence it with staff and coaches already earmarked, seems to me one rule for some and the opposite for others.

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5 minutes ago, thebrewxi said:

So assuming all the gossip is right and it will be two funded divisions of 10 each and the rest cut lose; who do we think will be in the top 10? Who will miss out?

Will sky really want a top10 where 2 of them are French? Surely all of Cov, London Skolars, and the 2 welsh clubs wont make the cut so they will need to go amateur again which might finish them. Will Newcastle, or even London, make the cut? Could they be trying to organise a Super League South like the women's game with a bit of extra negotiated cash?

Lots of possibilities, but for expansionists I dont see any of them playing out at all well.

The proposal says they’ll work out the two divisions by moving up to a 14 team Super League and then relegating the bottom four and lumping them with the top six of the Championship in 2022. Outside of the current top eight in the Championship is Sheffield, Widnes and Newcastle, so you’d ‘lose’ an alleged “golden goose” in Newcastle from your new structure, for example. 

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16 hours ago, Tommygilf said:

Tbf that is because in recent years we have also funded part time RL to a ridiculously high level rather than investing into a fully professional environment.

There's been a payback on that funding with a lot of SL teams including your own utilising the abhorrent DR system, had they had to run a reserves side it would have taken more finances away from the player's wage balance.

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Just now, Harry Stottle said:

Do you not consider that at least SL clubs should run an academy Tommy?

There were some applications for the next Academy Licensing period that were turned down and a couple of existing academies axed by the RFL till the about turn, one applicant in particular had £400k set aside to commence it with staff and coaches already earmarked, seems to me one rule for some and the opposite for others.

Indeed I do, but like with the cutting of Super League to 10 teams, that has to be a long term vision not just who happens to be there at the right time. Given the relative scarcity of junior RL players too, there needs to be serious consideration of how many academies are drawing from specific areas and how.

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20 minutes ago, Harry Stottle said:

There's been a payback on that funding with a lot of SL teams including your own utilising the abhorrent DR system, had they had to run a reserves side it would have taken more finances away from the player's wage balance.

Two wrongs?

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50 minutes ago, Martyn Sadler said:

As I understand it, Sky have said they want an improved, more consistent product and the RFL has responded with its current proposal.

As someone else has pointed out, however, the quality of a match and the entertainment value are not always the same thing.

Thanks Martyn

It's as I thought and yes entertainment, close games, and competitive games make great viewing. Perceived standard is important but not as essential as the other points raised. 

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I personally think all Super League clubs should be forced to have academies and reserves. This all goes hand in hand with raising standards across the board. If they cant afford them or refuse to have them then they really shouldn't be allowed in Super League. Minimum requirements should be set for Super League clubs to increase the player pool in their area, which also should increase their fanbase, through work in schools, investing in development officers and clubs should be forced to develop a minimum number of amateur clubs in their town or catchment area to fuel their academy system. Yes it will cost but it should be pretty standard fare for any SL team. There is much that can be done to develop Rugby League, even in areas that already have Super League teams.

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4 minutes ago, Damien said:

I personally think all Super League clubs should be forced to have academies and reserves. This all goes hand in hand with raising standards across the board. If they cant afford them or refuse to have them then they really shouldn't be allowed in Super League. Minimum requirements should be set for Super League clubs to increase the player pool in their area, which also should increase their fanbase, through work in schools, investing in development officers and clubs should be forced to develop a minimum number of amateur clubs in their town or catchment area to fuel their academy system. Yes it will cost but it should be pretty standard fare for any SL team. There is much that can be done to develop Rugby League, even in areas that already have Super League teams.

Maybe SL clubs should be penalised financially - i.e. hundreds of thousands docked from central funding - for not having an Academy?

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1 hour ago, David Dockhouse Host said:

Not sure Sky are, they've asked for it to be sorted, have they said they want ten teams specifically? 

The spread of talent is more important than perceived standard in creating a product that's attractive to watch.

If it's true we can create an even more attractive product if we went to 8 teams 

The ultimate logic of this approach leaves us with no teams at all.

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40 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

I don't "have" to explain anything. I'm not on the RL pay-roll. However, I will indulge with six points just off the bat. 

  • I think the sport needs to invest more heavily in digital content. We have incredible stories to tell and create great content on the field, but it is terrible at capturing that content and telling that story. RL needs to really understand how channels like social media actually work (I mean, the clubs/RFL/SLE have only had 15 years to work out how to use Twitter and 17 to figure out how Facebook works), to build an audience that it can monetise and sell for more than a delivery of stuffed-crust pepperonis. 
  • On a related point, I think the sport needs to make it easier for people to follow and "buy" the sport if they aren't in or near the heartlands. That includes improved media relations, improved storytelling, improved merchandising and better use of digital media to break through our geographic limitations.  
  • The sport needs to improve it's overall image. It needs to look carefully at how it presents itself and make it easy for Sky and the media to make our games look like vibrant, exciting events. We need to better media-train our players so that they can show their personality, without saying or doing something stupid on social media. 
  • I think the sport needs to reduce the length of the league to: 
    • a) create space in the calendar for some form of international/rep competition.
    • b) to create space for alternative formats that could engage different audience demographics.
    • c) reduce the number of 'meaningless' games and to improve overall quality. 
    • d) improve player welfare and reduce the workload on the playing talent. 
  • I think the sport needs to invest in short-form versions of the game to encourage participation - reducing the commitment level required to play. 
  • I think the sport needs to invest on low and non-contact versions to encourage participation amid growing parental concerns around head injuries. 

 

I don't disagree with any of that.

 

42 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

 

Your point seemed to be that any future structure or decisions on who is in the Super League would be influenced on the markets in which Sky operates.

No, my point is that any contract that Sky offers Rugby League will be largely determined by the number of Sky subscribers who it would be in danger of losing if it no longer broadcast Rugby League.

 

45 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

My point is that I don't believe that is anywhere near as influential as you perhaps think. I don't think that enough Sky subscriptions rely on RL content and I don't think that there are enough households in whichever RL town you care to mention that would decide to subscribe or cancel Sky subscriptions to register beyond what Sky probably already sees in a customer acquisition and churn cycle.

Unless we can persuade someone from Sky to come on here to clarify what's important to them, I think we are going to have to agree to disagree.

 

47 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

Therefore, if RL can't get to the point where enough subscriptions rely on RL, if can at least get to a point where it increases the audience that tunes in to watch RL. Our aim is to not turn people into avid RL fans like you or I, but to simply get to a point where RL is something that people are prepared to sit down and watch with enough regularity that it demonstrates to Sky that we offer something to their existing subscriber base. 

That's why people like you or I aren't the ones that "really matter". We're important, but we're not the most important. The people who "really matter" are the people who, on paper at least, could be engaged with RL, have access to RL content but, for whatever reason, aren't. What "really matters" is that, when the summer era of rugby league started with Bull/CougarMania and huge family audiences, we now have clubs like Widnes admitting that they have fewer than 200 kids on their season ticket list. What "really matters" is that in an era where people have far more distractions vying for their attention and leisure dollar, RL seems reluctant to respond to what they want. That's what I think Sky is most worried about.  

Whereas you and I and other dedicated Rugby League viewers "really matter" when it comes to negotiating new contracts with the broadcaster, the people who "really matter" in the long term are those you cite. I wouldn't argue with that.

The same expression is used in two different contexts.

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  • John Drake changed the title to League Restructure Thread (Merged Threads)

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