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Why Expansion has failed


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3 minutes ago, Damien said:

I don't like the term failed because in my opinion it has never been done properly for a long enough period of time to be deemed a failure.

When expansion has been funded properly with development officers, and let's face it even those times have been at a fraction of the levels pumped into sports like RU, or with well funded clubs things have generally gone well. The trouble is these things always seem fleeting in RL and we always seem one small step away from everything collapsing with nothing to show for it.

RL would be doing ace if it had loads of Hemel Stags all over the country; Clubs that own their own playing field and have a club house. 

Unfortunately the game hasn't despite millions of investment coming in over the past decade, been able to improve or build towards that possibility. 

Right now, its really hard to be a rugby league supporter unless you live really close. And the evidence is that not enough of those people are interested.

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5 minutes ago, Tommygilf said:

RL would be doing ace if it had loads of Hemel Stags all over the country; Clubs that own their own playing field and have a club house. 

Unfortunately the game hasn't despite millions of investment 9 in over the past decade, been able to improve or build towards that possibility. 

Right now, its really hard to be a rugby league supporter unless you live really close. And the evidence is that not enough of those people are interested.

I completely agree and have said the same many times before.

Yes the RFL may not have much money but the sport has squandered 100s of millions over the last 25 years with little to show for it. Even if we had a small percentage of each TV deal going towards buying infrastructure to benefit the game (and getting external grants to match) and we would now have much more to show for it.

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Please can we not use 'expansion has failed' and 'Cornwall' in the same breath.

The Cornwall RLFC club is driven by those who have worked hard over the past decade, and understand what is required for long-term success in the far SW. The club wasn't set up on a whim, but after a great deal of thought and critical thinking. What is more, we have only played two home games.

There are great things in the pipeline to widen participation over coming years, and our Cornish Rebels Ladies side will soon be competing in the Super League South competition. There are so many reasons to be optimistic.

Most of all I would ask every RL fan who might be on holiday down here at the time of a home match to come along. Every single supporter who does so will be ensuring the future is ever brighter.

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Could the international game assist in expansion ?  

Hosting European Championships of various levels ( Students, 19's, Residents, Women's etc) at locations where international sport is an uncommon sight.   

Inbound tours by teams such as Australian Schoolboys to play a Test in a non heartlands location. Ditto Defence or Police teams. 

As been mentioned elsewhere, regardless of what games are played ...be they World Cup fixtures or a touring visit from the Australian Outback Stockmen ... post event work to promote the code is critical. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rugby League Fan's Mantra for helping the game grow internationally is ten two-letter words - IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME.

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Seems odd to have a thread about expansion and then immediately rule out everywhere the expansion has worked. We had 22 clubs to start with everything else is expansion be that Australia,NZ,PNG or France what we’d be better looking at is why the game took root in these places and how that would help us to continue to expand successfully today. 

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After reading this thread I needed a pick-me-up.

The NRL is continuing to put rugby league on Victoria’s map, launching a new Schoolboys Cup qualifier which hopes to provide more opportunities for the southern state’s up-and-coming league stars in the Australian rules heartland.
 
 
BZAkEx4t?format=jpg&name=900x900
If there ever was a situation where the god-awful hackneyed word ` organic ` should be used, it is with Rugby League expansion. 
It`s a tough game and billionaires are in short supply, so growth from the centre is always going to be the best way.
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9 hours ago, ChristianB said:

Please can we not use 'expansion has failed' and 'Cornwall' in the same breath.

The Cornwall RLFC club is driven by those who have worked hard over the past decade, and understand what is required for long-term success in the far SW. The club wasn't set up on a whim, but after a great deal of thought and critical thinking. What is more, we have only played two home games.

There are great things in the pipeline to widen participation over coming years, and our Cornish Rebels Ladies side will soon be competing in the Super League South competition. There are so many reasons to be optimistic.

Most of all I would ask every RL fan who might be on holiday down here at the time of a home match to come along. Every single supporter who does so will be ensuring the future is ever brighter.

Sounds like there's lots of positives coming out of Cornwall. Have they got plans to get into schools and set up junior clubs?

How many junior clubs are there currently in Cornwall? How many community clubs do you think the South West could sustain? I'd like to see a South West Juniors League feeding into the Cornwall side

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3 minutes ago, The Rocket said:

After reading this thread I needed a pick-me-up.

The NRL is continuing to put rugby league on Victoria’s map, launching a new Schoolboys Cup qualifier which hopes to provide more opportunities for the southern state’s up-and-coming league stars in the Australian rules heartland.
 
 
BZAkEx4t?format=jpg&name=900x900
If there ever was a situation where the god-awful hackneyed word ` organic ` should be used, it is with Rugby League expansion. 
It`s a tough game and billionaires are in short supply, so growth from the centre is always going to be the best way.

What's participation like in Melbourne? Do they have quite a lot of junior clubs already?

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56 minutes ago, bobbruce said:

Seems odd to have a thread about expansion and then immediately rule out everywhere the expansion has worked. We had 22 clubs to start with everything else is expansion be that Australia,NZ,PNG or France what we’d be better looking at is why the game took root in these places and how that would help us to continue to expand successfully today. 

I do get that, but unfortunately I think the reason(s) for that early success no longer exists or would be near impossible to replicate.

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10 hours ago, ChristianB said:

Please can we not use 'expansion has failed' and 'Cornwall' in the same breath.

The Cornwall RLFC club is driven by those who have worked hard over the past decade, and understand what is required for long-term success in the far SW. The club wasn't set up on a whim, but after a great deal of thought and critical thinking. What is more, we have only played two home games.

There are great things in the pipeline to widen participation over coming years, and our Cornish Rebels Ladies side will soon be competing in the Super League South competition. There are so many reasons to be optimistic.

Most of all I would ask every RL fan who might be on holiday down here at the time of a home match to come along. Every single supporter who does so will be ensuring the future is ever brighter.

I'm glad you posted this because everytime I post my pessimistic stuff about expansion I'm only too aware of the effect it might have on people doing a great job in places like Cornwall.

If I go down to the area this year I'll attend and buy some merchandise as well.

 

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2 warning points:kolobok_dirol:

 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, JM2010 said:

What's participation like in Melbourne? Do they have quite a lot of junior clubs already?

I heard before the pandemic they were up to about 3000 registered players across all ages and sexes.

The last time I`d read something on this they were quoting $10m as the amount that Storm had spent themselves on junior development in that State over the last 20 years.

I`m a great believer in persistence and reward for effort being key in a non-traditional League State like Victoria. If the Victorian Rugby League and the Storm can reach a critical mass with youth participation it could take off from there.

I`m not kidding myself that League will take over from afl, but I believe between our Touch, Tag and Tackle offerings our code offers such a point of difference from theirs` we should be able to get up to some respectable numbers.

BTW, the competition mentioned in the previous post is called the Storm Cup.

 

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22 hours ago, THE RED ROOSTER said:

First off this is not a thread about the French clubs, they are French Heartlands clubs so in no way expansion which is about Rugby League growing in a non-Rugby League area. Secondly this is not about London Broncos, there are enough threads on them and they are, as a club, firmly in my rear view mirror......

History surprisingly tells us a lot about the present. What you don’t take into account is the game of Rugby League was born of a breakaway from Rugby Union in 1896 and the attempts to expand the game as it stood, and the League game as it developed, was always about winning the hearts and minds of a small minority of people who favoured the oval ball game. At that time the round ball game was murdering the oval ball game whether the Toff’s Union version, or the northern working class’s Northern Union aka Rugby League. Both codes of Rugby needed to survive the soccer onslaught. Union did this by building an infrastructure of amateur clubs aimed at maximising participation particularly in upper class schools and in wealthy areas.

Both Soccer and RU grew into major national sports and pretty much destroyed any opportunity beyond the breakaway Yorkshire and Lancashire heartland, for the League game to grow. Expansionists fail to grasp the history, and the current reality that all three codes have lost a major part of their playing base, hitting League the hardest. In south Wales there are professional Soccer clubs, and Professional RU clubs of note, and no real interest in League anymore despite this being the one area outside the M62 that once upon a time turned their backs on the Rugby Union for League for a short time.

Expansionists fail to grasp that most people don’t even really want to invest in or play Rugby League even in Sheffield, Bolton, Doncaster, Liverpool, and Manchester, all northern working class places next door and in between the RL heartlands.  The simple reality is that if I ran the RFL and has £10,000,000 to spend on the grass roots I would spend every penny on supporting and building what RL infrastructure we already have now. Money every real RL club from Juniors to Superleague in the here and now wants, needs, and can use every single penny to good effect. How ridiculous to waste it anywhere where they don’t play RL, haven’t wanted to play it, and never will……

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22 hours ago, Dave T said:

I suppose a lot of it boils down to what we as individuals see as expansion. People do apply quite strict criteria to this. 

For me, we are talking participation expanding its geographical footprint. And that participation includes players, coaches and supporters. 

I suppose the question to be asked is is our footprint wider than 10 years ago? Or 20 years ago, or 50 years ago? 

My view is the answer is no in the UK. I think we look relatively the same as we did 20 or 30 years ago. We have always had seemingly random teams pop up here and there, and that is still what we have with Cornwall, West Wales etc. 

Is RL played in schools, colleges and universities all over the country, or still relatively confined? 

I think we have a lot of work to do and it should be focused on grassroots, community game and the education bodies. Top down should come on the back of this development. 

But we should also remember that new expansion teams in virgin territory is a really rare thing in this country. It isn't easy to just set up a club in a new area and have them do well, I can't think of too many good examples. And the major sports don't really need to even try to do it, they have nailed the foundations. 

I'd agree with a lot of these points, although my view of "expansion" is slightly different. I don't think we should be looking at expansion as an issue of geography, but as an issue of audience. 

I think you can take many of the questions you ask and reframe them not as "where is the game watched / played? ", but as "who is watching / playing the game?". 

On some metrics, RL has done some good work on that front - we now have free-to-air TV coverage for example - but on many fronts, I think this is still the big question that hasn't been answered - who do we want to get watching RL, and how does RL cater to what they want? Do the clubs know who their target growth demographics are?

Geographic expansion will not and cannot work without answering this question, no matter how much money and resources you want to throw at it. If the sport's main source of new fans and young players is dads and grandads dragging their reluctant kids along, then that is never going to work in an area where there isn't that same established culture. It also, arguably, isn't going to work in existing heartlands where those communities are changing (eg, more transient populations in cities, increased ethnic diversity, young people leaving towns for work and study and not coming back, etc).

The tools that RL has available to it now include the ability to reach all manner of audiences anywhere in the world with content that is objectively brilliant, yet many clubs have a token effort to digital and social media, a PR strategy that doesn't extend beyond local newspapers with falling circulations, and still think that "advertising" means a poster up outside the club offices. Why is this? Is it a lack or resource, a lack of knowledge, a lack of effort, or a combination of various reasons? The new TV deal was supposed to include broadcast-quality filming of every fixture to allow the sport to distribute that digitally, yet it hasn't materialised. Why? 

So to me, "expansion" isn't about how we get teams in different geographic areas, it's about how we expand the number and the diversity of people watching and playing the sport, whether that is in our heartland areas or not. We often talk about RL being a working class sport, only popular in low income areas and areas affected disproportionately by austerity, yet that ignores the sizable pockets of wealth that exist in, or in easy reach of, our heartland areas. If we answer the questions of "do we know the audiences we want to reach?", "do we offer what those audiences want?" and, as importantly, "do we have the "image" that these people are attracted to?", the point about geographic footprint actually starts to address itself.  

Expansion is about how we build a bigger, more diverse TV audience that makes the sport's media rights more valuable. It's about how we build a digital audience that allows us to share our content around the world, and create an audience that advertisers want to pay to reach. 

Expansion is about how we make it easier for someone outside the heartlands who wants to follow RL to follow it - it's currently far too difficult for people outside the heartlands to really follow RL. 

The TL:DR version of this is that when we frame expansion as a "geography" problem, it becomes a problem that we can't really fix - because the sport doesn't have the resources to fund any meaningful expansion, the clubs themselves (with a small number of exceptions) aren't particularly enthusiastic about it either, and so we're reliant on another wealthy individual with some cash to burn (and all the risks that come with that). However, when we frame this as an "audience" problem, it is very much something that the game and the clubs in particular can - and importantly - have a stake in finding a solution to. 

 

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17 hours ago, OriginalMrC said:

Do 'expansion' clubs need more support? Yes

Has 'expansion' failed? No 

Do large numbers of people outside the heartlands love the game? Yes 

Do we need the constant debate about expansion failing? No

That's all I have to say on the matter 

Some great points, Rugby League started with 22 clubs from the North of England in 1895. We now have significantly more than 22 clubs in the UK, as well as Professional clubs in France, Australia, New Zealand, PNG and Fiji. The game is played at an amateur level all across the UK and in a significant number of countries across the World. It has expanded. I think when people claim it hasn’t what they really mean is the sport isn’t as big as Rugby Union.

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47 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

I'd agree with a lot of these points, although my view of "expansion" is slightly different. I don't think we should be looking at expansion as an issue of geography, but as an issue of audience. 

I think you can take many of the questions you ask and reframe them not as "where is the game watched / played? ", but as "who is watching / playing the game?". 

On some metrics, RL has done some good work on that front - we now have free-to-air TV coverage for example - but on many fronts, I think this is still the big question that hasn't been answered - who do we want to get watching RL, and how does RL cater to what they want? Do the clubs know who their target growth demographics are?

Geographic expansion will not and cannot work without answering this question, no matter how much money and resources you want to throw at it. If the sport's main source of new fans and young players is dads and grandads dragging their reluctant kids along, then that is never going to work in an area where there isn't that same established culture. It also, arguably, isn't going to work in existing heartlands where those communities are changing (eg, more transient populations in cities, increased ethnic diversity, young people leaving towns for work and study and not coming back, etc).

The tools that RL has available to it now include the ability to reach all manner of audiences anywhere in the world with content that is objectively brilliant, yet many clubs have a token effort to digital and social media, a PR strategy that doesn't extend beyond local newspapers with falling circulations, and still think that "advertising" means a poster up outside the club offices. Why is this? Is it a lack or resource, a lack of knowledge, a lack of effort, or a combination of various reasons? The new TV deal was supposed to include broadcast-quality filming of every fixture to allow the sport to distribute that digitally, yet it hasn't materialised. Why? 

So to me, "expansion" isn't about how we get teams in different geographic areas, it's about how we expand the number and the diversity of people watching and playing the sport, whether that is in our heartland areas or not. We often talk about RL being a working class sport, only popular in low income areas and areas affected disproportionately by austerity, yet that ignores the sizable pockets of wealth that exist in, or in easy reach of, our heartland areas. If we answer the questions of "do we know the audiences we want to reach?", "do we offer what those audiences want?" and, as importantly, "do we have the "image" that these people are attracted to?", the point about geographic footprint actually starts to address itself.  

Expansion is about how we build a bigger, more diverse TV audience that makes the sport's media rights more valuable. It's about how we build a digital audience that allows us to share our content around the world, and create an audience that advertisers want to pay to reach. 

Expansion is about how we make it easier for someone outside the heartlands who wants to follow RL to follow it - it's currently far too difficult for people outside the heartlands to really follow RL. 

The TL:DR version of this is that when we frame expansion as a "geography" problem, it becomes a problem that we can't really fix - because the sport doesn't have the resources to fund any meaningful expansion, the clubs themselves (with a small number of exceptions) aren't particularly enthusiastic about it either, and so we're reliant on another wealthy individual with some cash to burn (and all the risks that come with that). However, when we frame this as an "audience" problem, it is very much something that the game and the clubs in particular can - and importantly - have a stake in finding a solution to. 

 

Whilst the above is true, that just isn't what is realistically meant when 99% of people discuss expansion. I think you are framing growth. 

We could double and diversify our audience at all existing clubs and on Sky, BBC and Channel 4 in existing places, but that wouldn't be seen as expansion. 

I think there is a definite case for focusing on growth metrics rather than the often vanity projects of geographical expansion. 

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57 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

I'd agree with a lot of these points, although my view of "expansion" is slightly different. I don't think we should be looking at expansion as an issue of geography, but as an issue of audience. 

I think you can take many of the questions you ask and reframe them not as "where is the game watched / played? ", but as "who is watching / playing the game?". 

On some metrics, RL has done some good work on that front - we now have free-to-air TV coverage for example - but on many fronts, I think this is still the big question that hasn't been answered - who do we want to get watching RL, and how does RL cater to what they want? Do the clubs know who their target growth demographics are?

Geographic expansion will not and cannot work without answering this question, no matter how much money and resources you want to throw at it. If the sport's main source of new fans and young players is dads and grandads dragging their reluctant kids along, then that is never going to work in an area where there isn't that same established culture. It also, arguably, isn't going to work in existing heartlands where those communities are changing (eg, more transient populations in cities, increased ethnic diversity, young people leaving towns for work and study and not coming back, etc).

The tools that RL has available to it now include the ability to reach all manner of audiences anywhere in the world with content that is objectively brilliant, yet many clubs have a token effort to digital and social media, a PR strategy that doesn't extend beyond local newspapers with falling circulations, and still think that "advertising" means a poster up outside the club offices. Why is this? Is it a lack or resource, a lack of knowledge, a lack of effort, or a combination of various reasons? The new TV deal was supposed to include broadcast-quality filming of every fixture to allow the sport to distribute that digitally, yet it hasn't materialised. Why? 

So to me, "expansion" isn't about how we get teams in different geographic areas, it's about how we expand the number and the diversity of people watching and playing the sport, whether that is in our heartland areas or not. We often talk about RL being a working class sport, only popular in low income areas and areas affected disproportionately by austerity, yet that ignores the sizable pockets of wealth that exist in, or in easy reach of, our heartland areas. If we answer the questions of "do we know the audiences we want to reach?", "do we offer what those audiences want?" and, as importantly, "do we have the "image" that these people are attracted to?", the point about geographic footprint actually starts to address itself.  

Expansion is about how we build a bigger, more diverse TV audience that makes the sport's media rights more valuable. It's about how we build a digital audience that allows us to share our content around the world, and create an audience that advertisers want to pay to reach. 

Expansion is about how we make it easier for someone outside the heartlands who wants to follow RL to follow it - it's currently far too difficult for people outside the heartlands to really follow RL. 

The TL:DR version of this is that when we frame expansion as a "geography" problem, it becomes a problem that we can't really fix - because the sport doesn't have the resources to fund any meaningful expansion, the clubs themselves (with a small number of exceptions) aren't particularly enthusiastic about it either, and so we're reliant on another wealthy individual with some cash to burn (and all the risks that come with that). However, when we frame this as an "audience" problem, it is very much something that the game and the clubs in particular can - and importantly - have a stake in finding a solution to. 

 

Excellent post. Pretty much nails it. 

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4 minutes ago, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

Some great points, Rugby League started with 22 clubs from the North of England in 1895. We now have significantly more than 22 clubs in the UK, as well as Professional clubs in France, Australia, New Zealand, PNG and Fiji. The game is played at an amateur level all across the UK and in a significant number of countries across the World. It has expanded. I think when people claim it hasn’t what they really mean is the sport isn’t as big as Rugby Union.

Arguments like this ignore how much other sports have grown too though. Famous English Football clubs like Chelsea were only founded a decade later and famous clubs like AC Milan, Barcelona and Ajax didn't even exist in 1895. RU was decimated in the North after the split but now has more clubs and is more widely played than RL.

RL wasn't that interested in expansion for a long time and was quite content to let Newcastle, Coventry, Birkenhead, Lancaster, Stockport, Morecombe and South Shields disappear and not to develop the game in Wales. Its leading clubs were quite content to be a Lancashire\Yorkshire sport at a time when other sports were growing exponentially.

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We can't agree on what expansion is, what it looks like or even how best to do it so what chance would there be of success?

The generally half hearted and too often romanticised views at both ends of the spectrum are hardly credible models for development or progress.

Even if the Aussie model could be transposed for the sake of argument where we we go in order to expand?

Because of its economic state there is neither the will nor the wherewithall  for this to happen.

In truth the RFL have all the hallmarks of company whose sole purpose in downsizing !

 

2 warning points:kolobok_dirol:

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, steve oates said:

History surprisingly tells us a lot about the present. What you don’t take into account is the game of Rugby League was born of a breakaway from Rugby Union in 1896 and the attempts to expand the game as it stood, and the League game as it developed, was always about winning the hearts and minds of a small minority of people who favoured the oval ball game. At that time the round ball game was murdering the oval ball game whether the Toff’s Union version, or the northern working class’s Northern Union aka Rugby League. Both codes of Rugby needed to survive the soccer onslaught. Union did this by building an infrastructure of amateur clubs aimed at maximising participation particularly in upper class schools and in wealthy areas.

Both Soccer and RU grew into major national sports and pretty much destroyed any opportunity beyond the breakaway Yorkshire and Lancashire heartland, for the League game to grow. Expansionists fail to grasp the history, and the current reality that all three codes have lost a major part of their playing base, hitting League the hardest. In south Wales there are professional Soccer clubs, and Professional RU clubs of note, and no real interest in League anymore despite this being the one area outside the M62 that once upon a time turned their backs on the Rugby Union for League for a short time.

Expansionists fail to grasp that most people don’t even really want to invest in or play Rugby League even in Sheffield, Bolton, Doncaster, Liverpool, and Manchester, all northern working class places next door and in between the RL heartlands.  The simple reality is that if I ran the RFL and has £10,000,000 to spend on the grass roots I would spend every penny on supporting and building what RL infrastructure we already have now. Money every real RL club from Juniors to Superleague in the here and now wants, needs, and can use every single penny to good effect. How ridiculous to waste it anywhere where they don’t play RL, haven’t wanted to play it, and never will……

The trouble is that the heartlands area is too small and too economically disadvantaged now to provide the sort of money needed to sustain the pro game and compete with soccer and RU, so expansion is required if pro RL in Britain is going to survive and that's the way it is.

Expansion is also needed to reverse the decline in the player pool, because having the pro game concentrated in smallish, unfashionable towns is evidently not appealing enough to the sons and grandsons of the RL players and followers of yesteryear to maintain the player pool.  If the decline in the player pool was instead due to the wide gap between SL and the other tiers of the pro game, the player pool decline would be limited to the towns whose clubs don't have a shot at SL and wouldn't exist in places like Warrington, St Helens and Wigan but it seems to be happening across the game's heartland.

To answer @The Partisan's question about whether the International game can help expansion, I'd say that it could only do that if all Internationals are presented in a big time way as big events so they conform to the public's expectations of what International sport is, which have been set by soccer, cricket and RU: big crowds in a big stadiums and an atmosphere consistent with that.  And that can't happen without the sort of money those sports have, so we come back to the need to expand the sport's base so it can attract the necessary money.

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19 minutes ago, Dave T said:

Whilst the above is true, that just isn't what is realistically meant when 99% of people discuss expansion. I think you are framing growth. 

We could double and diversify our audience at all existing clubs and on Sky, BBC and Channel 4 in existing places, but that wouldn't be seen as expansion. 

I think there is a definite case for focusing on growth metrics rather than the often vanity projects of geographical expansion. 

But I would argue that you can't really have geographic expansion without starting with that audience. 

If we were to ask what the "point" of geographic expansion is, it's more than likely "to have more people watching / playing / buying RL". If we were to ask what the point of expanding our audience is, it's more than likely "to have more people watching / playing / buying RL".

So if the end-goal is the same, surely the best way to frame this entire subject of expansion is to prioritise the things we can control with the tools we have, rather than wishing for things we can't control with tools we don't have? You might be fair to say I'm talking about "growth" rather than "expansion" but if that's the case, then maybe "expansion" is an unhealthy distraction? 

And the reason why I think that the "audience-first" approach to expansion is the way to look at this is because I think that much of the game, particularly in the heartlands, is relying on inertia. We're relying on the same people to keep buying the same product, attend the same events, accept the same things and drag their kids along with it. That's the "mould" we expect people to conform to. 

That's a problem both for heartland and expansion clubs. When we expand, the game tries to take that same mould, apply it somewhere that doesn't have that same inertia, and acts surprised why it doesn't work. In the heartlands, where our communities are changing, the RL club is less and less the "heart of the community" that it may have been generations ago, and it has to work harder to stand out in a crowded leisure market. 

Again, I think if you got the 12 SL club chairmen in a room and asked them who their priority growth audience is for the next 3 years, I think the best case scenario is that you'd get 12 different answers - and the more likely scenario is that you'd get more than a few puzzled looks. If that's the case - that the sport doesn't know how to appeal to the people on it's doorstep, how can it possibly know how to appeal to any new market? 

We can probably get more people watching RL in <spins random city generator> Milton Keynes by putting a team there, throwing millions and millions of pounds at it, and waiting to see if we can find enough "people like us" to make it viable. We can probably also get more people watching RL in Milton Keynes by making it easier for people in MK to consume RL content, engaging them through all manner of different media, improving the image or RL to make RL merch more appealing and encouraging them to watch RL on TV, on YouTube and whatever other platforms the cool kids are using these days.

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25 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

But I would argue that you can't really have geographic expansion without starting with that audience. 

If we were to ask what the "point" of geographic expansion is, it's more than likely "to have more people watching / playing / buying RL". If we were to ask what the point of expanding our audience is, it's more than likely "to have more people watching / playing / buying RL".

So if the end-goal is the same, surely the best way to frame this entire subject of expansion is to prioritise the things we can control with the tools we have, rather than wishing for things we can't control with tools we don't have? You might be fair to say I'm talking about "growth" rather than "expansion" but if that's the case, then maybe "expansion" is an unhealthy distraction? 

And the reason why I think that the "audience-first" approach to expansion is the way to look at this is because I think that much of the game, particularly in the heartlands, is relying on inertia. We're relying on the same people to keep buying the same product, attend the same events, accept the same things and drag their kids along with it. That's the "mould" we expect people to conform to. 

That's a problem both for heartland and expansion clubs. When we expand, the game tries to take that same mould, apply it somewhere that doesn't have that same inertia, and acts surprised why it doesn't work. In the heartlands, where our communities are changing, the RL club is less and less the "heart of the community" that it may have been generations ago, and it has to work harder to stand out in a crowded leisure market. 

Again, I think if you got the 12 SL club chairmen in a room and asked them who their priority growth audience is for the next 3 years, I think the best case scenario is that you'd get 12 different answers - and the more likely scenario is that you'd get more than a few puzzled looks. If that's the case - that the sport doesn't know how to appeal to the people on it's doorstep, how can it possibly know how to appeal to any new market? 

We can probably get more people watching RL in <spins random city generator> Milton Keynes by putting a team there, throwing millions and millions of pounds at it, and waiting to see if we can find enough "people like us" to make it viable. We can probably also get more people watching RL in Milton Keynes by making it easier for people in MK to consume RL content, engaging them through all manner of different media, improving the image or RL to make RL merch more appealing and encouraging them to watch RL on TV, on YouTube and whatever other platforms the cool kids are using these days.

I totally agree with everything here, but again, this is growth. And your question of whether expansion is an unhealthy distraction is, tbh the elephant in the room. Look at the stick that the likes of Michael Carter got for suggesting growth should be focused where we already have a presence. 

There is a lot of sense in his comments, not that I will ever be on board with a lot of Carter's approach I would add. 

As I say, I agree with your points, so I don't need to go Into other details of your post. 

On your last para, I think we have seen this during the lifetime of SL. I know it is likely spin, but the high % of Sky viewers from outside the heartlands supports your view. I do think we have a ceiling on that, and some people will only be interested in things that are local to them, but based on our numbers, it doesn't feel like we are anywhere near saturation point. As a TV sport I think Catalans really add value as well as some geographical expansion and growth for SL. 

I do think we need to be mindful of vanity projects, and I think any top down expansion needs to be privately funded, apart from support at grassroots, which is for the benefit of the game even if they vanish. 

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1 hour ago, Damien said:

Arguments like this ignore how much other sports have grown too though. Famous English Football clubs like Chelsea were only founded a decade later and famous clubs like AC Milan, Barcelona and Ajax didn't even exist in 1895. RU was decimated in the North after the split but now has more clubs and is more widely played than RL.

RL wasn't that interested in expansion for a long time and was quite content to let Newcastle, Coventry, Birkenhead, Lancaster, Stockport, Morecombe and South Shields disappear and not to develop the game in Wales. Its leading clubs were quite content to be a Lancashire\Yorkshire sport at a time when other sports were growing exponentially.

Sadly you're right

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I always thought perfect opportunity for the RFL offer the Rugby Union clubs in Limbo like the Scottish Borders Hawick, Melrose , South Wales like Neath, Pontypool etc and South West with Penzance and Plymouth.

Really surprised that Hartlepool area never went to League.

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