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Why Expansion has failed


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20 hours ago, Dave T said:

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. 

I think the point about Michael Carter's suggestion is a fair one and whilst I think there is a lot of fair criticism to be levelled at him, I think that, buried deep within his argument, was a decent point. The problem with what he said was that the things he was proposing were very much within his power as a club leader at the very point he said them - making rugby league in Wakefield more attractive, increasing the audience his club (and by extension, the sport) reaches and being the "FOMO" ticket in town. I think this is why people like Carter and the anti-expansion argument leaves itself open to the "we've been focusing on the heartlands for 120+ years...." argument - he seemingly knows what needs to be done, but isn't doing it. 

So the obvious question to put back is why isn't the sport succeeding in increasing it's appeal within the north of England and the heartland communities. Is it a lack of resource? Is it that the clubs don't know the audiences they want to reach? Is it a lack of knowledge of how to appeal to them? Are the clubs waiting for the RFL/SLE to do it for them, effectively creating a void of responsibility where the RFL sees this as a club issue, and the clubs see it as an RFL issue? 

We can't just default, as some in this thread have, to the argument that "people in the RL heartlands are all skint" because that's plainly not true. There are pockets of wealth all over RL land that, presumably have money to spend and a demand for entertainment. Offices in Leeds and Manchester right now will be full of people in well-paid tech, legal and finance jobs, and our 'RL towns' around them are now commuter towns for those people. Even within five minutes drive of Belle Vue, there are huge housing developments where some plots are going for close to half a million pounds - surely any RL club would love that sort of audience on their doorstep and should be doing whatever they can to make themselves appealing to their new neighbours? 

I think the other problem with his point was the "in the north" qualifier and again, whilst I understood why he said it, but just because the sport is strongest in the north and predominantly played in the north, it doesn't mean our appeal has to be limited to the north. If our content is as good as we all like to think it is, why can't it travel? Is the sort of stuff that Tom Johnson can do more impressive if he does it in the south east rather than the rhubarb triangle? 

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The bottom line is it’s a northern sport for northern people. It’s not wanted throughout the country or else it would be there. More fool them

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sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forward

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44 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

I think the point about Michael Carter's suggestion is a fair one and whilst I think there is a lot of fair criticism to be levelled at him, I think that, buried deep within his argument, was a decent point. The problem with what he said was that the things he was proposing were very much within his power as a club leader at the very point he said them - making rugby league in Wakefield more attractive, increasing the audience his club (and by extension, the sport) reaches and being the "FOMO" ticket in town. I think this is why people like Carter and the anti-expansion argument leaves itself open to the "we've been focusing on the heartlands for 120+ years...." argument - he seemingly knows what needs to be done, but isn't doing it. 

So the obvious question to put back is why isn't the sport succeeding in increasing it's appeal within the north of England and the heartland communities. Is it a lack of resource? Is it that the clubs don't know the audiences they want to reach? Is it a lack of knowledge of how to appeal to them? Are the clubs waiting for the RFL/SLE to do it for them, effectively creating a void of responsibility where the RFL sees this as a club issue, and the clubs see it as an RFL issue? 

We can't just default, as some in this thread have, to the argument that "people in the RL heartlands are all skint" because that's plainly not true. There are pockets of wealth all over RL land that, presumably have money to spend and a demand for entertainment. Offices in Leeds and Manchester right now will be full of people in well-paid tech, legal and finance jobs, and our 'RL towns' around them are now commuter towns for those people. Even within five minutes drive of Belle Vue, there are huge housing developments where some plots are going for close to half a million pounds - surely any RL club would love that sort of audience on their doorstep and should be doing whatever they can to make themselves appealing to their new neighbours? 

I think the other problem with his point was the "in the north" qualifier and again, whilst I understood why he said it, but just because the sport is strongest in the north and predominantly played in the north, it doesn't mean our appeal has to be limited to the north. If our content is as good as we all like to think it is, why can't it travel? Is the sort of stuff that Tom Johnson can do more impressive if he does it in the south east rather than the rhubarb triangle? 

Agree with every word of that mate.

Completely agree with the point about affluence in the 'heartland' areas. We just don't speak to these aspirational pockets imo. 

 

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1 hour ago, DEANO said:

The bottom line is it’s a northern sport for northern people. It’s not wanted throughout the country or else it would be there. More fool them

*Northern sport for Northern people except Scousers, Geordies, Mackems, South Yorkshire Tykes, North Yorkshire Tykes, most of Lancashire, the East Riding outside of Hull, half of Cumbria and Northumberland.

And that is only if we draw the line for the "North" across the rough Mersey/Humber. Many would now argue that line should be placed somewhere other than that!

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1 hour ago, DEANO said:

The bottom line is it’s a northern sport for northern people. It’s not wanted throughout the country or else it would be there. More fool them

Very good Derek.

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We are better just calling it growth, which just means where could money be put in that would lead to greatest return financially.  From an RFL perspective, thats internationals so you would be seeking investment into Wales with a guarantee that England would participate in an annual tournament with Wales and France to drive the tv figures and commercial revenue to sort out the infrastructure at lower levels of the pyramid. 

Unless there is a clear link or financial return for the person investing in a Welsh club by being able to capture the value they produce for the WRL,  it wouldnt work. 

Outside of that,  Manchester which already has the infrastructure in a city of 500,000 but no team or academy. 

South Yorkshire remains a largely open field with the RFU seemingly expecting  the Yorkshire area to be a bread basket for players but never have an elite club. 

A club in Rotherham might be a good bet to link the belt, give them some rivalries across south yorkshire and create a critical mass for an academy. 

I dont believe this northern sport thing but if thats what people want,then they should be clearly identifying areas in the north of England which actually have the size  (Manchester,Sheffield,Sunderland) to attract enough money to sustain a full time sport. 

But again,  I see no vision or roadmap from RFL and when your leadership is so weak you get a lack of direction. 

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2 hours ago, whatmichaelsays said:

I think the point about Michael Carter's suggestion is a fair one and whilst I think there is a lot of fair criticism to be levelled at him, I think that, buried deep within his argument, was a decent point. The problem with what he said was that the things he was proposing were very much within his power as a club leader at the very point he said them - making rugby league in Wakefield more attractive, increasing the audience his club (and by extension, the sport) reaches and being the "FOMO" ticket in town. I think this is why people like Carter and the anti-expansion argument leaves itself open to the "we've been focusing on the heartlands for 120+ years...." argument - he seemingly knows what needs to be done, but isn't doing it. 

So the obvious question to put back is why isn't the sport succeeding in increasing it's appeal within the north of England and the heartland communities. Is it a lack of resource? Is it that the clubs don't know the audiences they want to reach? Is it a lack of knowledge of how to appeal to them? Are the clubs waiting for the RFL/SLE to do it for them, effectively creating a void of responsibility where the RFL sees this as a club issue, and the clubs see it as an RFL issue? 

We can't just default, as some in this thread have, to the argument that "people in the RL heartlands are all skint" because that's plainly not true. There are pockets of wealth all over RL land that, presumably have money to spend and a demand for entertainment. Offices in Leeds and Manchester right now will be full of people in well-paid tech, legal and finance jobs, and our 'RL towns' around them are now commuter towns for those people. Even within five minutes drive of Belle Vue, there are huge housing developments where some plots are going for close to half a million pounds - surely any RL club would love that sort of audience on their doorstep and should be doing whatever they can to make themselves appealing to their new neighbours? 

I think the other problem with his point was the "in the north" qualifier and again, whilst I understood why he said it, but just because the sport is strongest in the north and predominantly played in the north, it doesn't mean our appeal has to be limited to the north. If our content is as good as we all like to think it is, why can't it travel? Is the sort of stuff that Tom Johnson can do more impressive if he does it in the south east rather than the rhubarb triangle? 

I`d say not being on a regular FTA weekend timeslot for the last 20 + years has been the one greatest single  disaster for English Rugby League, a lot lot more of those aspirationals may have actually had a chance to witness and develop an interest in the game had it been.

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1 hour ago, Tommygilf said:

*Northern sport for Northern people except Scousers, Geordies, Mackems, South Yorkshire Tykes, North Yorkshire Tykes, most of Lancashire, the East Riding outside of Hull, half of Cumbria and Northumberland.

And that is only if we draw the line for the "North" across the rough Mersey/Humber. Many would now argue that line should be placed somewhere other than that!

I thought all those teams were in the north!

sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forward

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52 minutes ago, The Rocket said:

I`d say not being on a regular FTA weekend timeslot for the last 20 + years has been the one greatest single  disaster for English Rugby League, a lot lot more of those aspirationals may have actually had a chance to witness and develop an interest in the game had it been.

I sort of agree, however we are not unique in that really, sport is very different in the UK. And whilst we now celebrate the C4 coverage as new, we are one of the few sports that have remained on FTA with regular challenge cup and slightly less regular internationals. But more can always be welcomed. 

We have had around 7 or 8 live games on BBC, plus weekly highlights, plus extensive playoff and GF highlights and then full international coverage each year. 

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4 hours ago, DEANO said:

The bottom line is it’s a northern sport for northern people. It’s not wanted throughout the country or else it would be there. More fool them

Not sure where I went wrong being born and raised in Berkshire and now living in London.

If you don't come across the sport in school, or with your friends, or on TV or in papers as is the case down here, how would you know about it? The idea that RL should not be national is daft (and its not like northerners are flocking to watch games). Cornwall could well end up being one of the best attended teams in L1 this season!

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49 minutes ago, Dave T said:

I sort of agree, however we are not unique in that really, sport is very different in the UK. And whilst we now celebrate the C4 coverage as new, we are one of the few sports that have remained on FTA with regular challenge cup and slightly less regular internationals. But more can always be welcomed. 

We have had around 7 or 8 live games on BBC, plus weekly highlights, plus extensive playoff and GF highlights and then full international coverage each year. 

Am I right in assuming that the 7 or 8 games were CC games, not quite the same as 26 weeks of FTA club coverage plus finals though is it. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you have to wonder whether big events like the CC Final and International matches would have then fed back into the club FTA coverage.

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45 minutes ago, The Rocket said:

Am I right in assuming that the 7 or 8 games were CC games, not quite the same as 26 weeks of FTA club coverage plus finals though is it. 

No, and that's the point. No sport, not even soccer(*), is getting 26 weeks of FTA club coverage in the UK.

(* The caveat being the regional coverage by, say, BBC Scotland of the Scottish Premiership but even then ...)

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1 hour ago, The Rocket said:

Am I right in assuming that the 7 or 8 games were CC games, not quite the same as 26 weeks of FTA club coverage plus finals though is it. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you have to wonder whether big events like the CC Final and International matches would have then fed back into the club FTA coverage.

GJ has addressed part of this, but when people claim we sold out and went behind a pay wall, they are being disingenuous - RL retained a decent FTA presence for much of the last 30 years. 

7 or 8 live cup games on the BBC. 

Weekly BBC SL highlights. 

Extended BBC Playoff and Grand Final highlights. 

3 to 6 internationals on the BBC each year, sometimes more. 

That is a decent level of terrestrial coverage, which has now been boosted by 10 live games on C4. We haven't necessarily capitalised on this. 

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2 minutes ago, Dave T said:

GJ has addressed part of this, but when people claim we sold out and went behind a pay wall, they are being disingenuous - RL retained a decent FTA presence for much of the last 30 years. 

7 or 8 live cup games on the BBC. 

Weekly BBC SL highlights. 

Extended BBC Playoff and Grand Final highlights. 

3 to 6 internationals on the BBC each year, sometimes more. 

That is a decent level of terrestrial coverage, which has now been boosted by 10 live games on C4. We haven't necessarily capitalised on this. 

Dave I think your points are really made well here, and it's like a lot of the arguments on here, if FTA or lack wasn't the problem the answer won't be found in more FTA.

 

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On 02/05/2022 at 18:19, gingerjon said:

All of this without UK media coverage?

You've literally just started the point by saying it begins when publicly owned but privately funded Channel 4 decided to make NFL part of its opening offer.

And ... no UK media coverage? I'm just imagining the live radio and TV BBC coverage of the Superb Owl, am I? Or that, for decades, NFL scores and stories have featured as part of the mainstream sporting landscape for the media in this country.

And that's before getting to the bizarre idea that NFL expansion in the 1980s meant five regular season games played abroad as against what they actually did ... which was create and fund a failed two continent league that collapsed into being a one continent, and then essentially one country, league before vanishing.

We may have many lessons to learn from the NFL. The idea that they have bravely pursued a single minded strategy to its inevitable triumph is not one of those lessons.

We will have to agree to disagree about NFL media coverage certainly in the print media. See what sport gets a sold out ground and virtually Zip coverage. Nor is BBC / Channel 5 coverage any more accessable due to it being late night and watched, in the main watched on record but my point remains you have to keep plugging away at things, over a period of time and learn from your failures in order to eventually establish yourself as a minority sport in alien territory.

Take the Blackburn game I mentioned at Ewood Park as an example, the one where Adrain Morley litrerally went head to head, off the ball, with Jerry Seu-Seu and came off second best. The game has never been back there and to my knowledge there is little to no league in what is classed down here as a northern town. so the Idea that one-off International games sparks anything more than passing interest does not hold water so to speak.

That's the main theme running through the opening post. If you look at expansion it's a case of someonewith money comes along, no real examination of their motives takes place until the money runs dry. Teams are started up and with 2-3 years up comes the cry "it's not working" so you get Bridgend, Newport then Wrexham then your out of Super League. You get rebrandings aplently which does nothing save blow what credibility your original brand had.

In short posters who write there is no strategic plan covering expansion or the criteria and levels of private finding and investment over time this will take are right.. There is a Corwall RLFC thread on here your not going to know if that club will suceed, in a rugby area albiet the other code, for at least 10-20 years at which point you would hope they would not have made the mistakes outlined in the previous paragraph.

The problem of course is as with a failed product a failed sport tends to leave nothing behind. There was a thread on the lines of "Do the people of Toronto still watch" you could also add do people in Nottingham, Scarborough, South Wales, Gloucester, Maidstone (Kent Invicta) still watch. You may soon be adding London to that list. Once you have had a club fail it is really difficult to begin again.

By and large the majority of posters on this thread have made sensible contributions bringing something of intellect regadless of their point of view. Some posters are of the view that there is no value or no resources to support expansion, while your wrong it is a legitimate point of view and more valid than someone simply paying lip service to expansion.

Rugby League is after all a game of opinions is it not.

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2 hours ago, Dave T said:

GJ has addressed part of this, but when people claim we sold out and went behind a pay wall, they are being disingenuous - RL retained a decent FTA presence for much of the last 30 years. 

7 or 8 live cup games on the BBC. 

Weekly BBC SL highlights. 

Extended BBC Playoff and Grand Final highlights. 

3 to 6 internationals on the BBC each year, sometimes more. 

That is a decent level of terrestrial coverage, which has now been boosted by 10 live games on C4. We haven't necessarily capitalised on this. 

The whole thing could be summarised as being a bit ad hoc though couldn`t it, the only thing on there that any one could sit down to on a regular as clockwork basis is the Weekly BBC Super League highlights.

`Appointment TV ` maybe not the television viewing phenomenon it once was, but for a long-time it was the staple for most people`s television viewing habits, and I don`t see that in there.

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Just now, The Rocket said:

The whole thing could be summarised as being a bit ad hoc though couldn`t it, the only thing on there that any one could sit down to on a regular as clockwork basis is the Weekly BBC Super League highlights.

`Appointment TV ` maybe not the television viewing phenomenon it once was, but for a long-time it was the staple for most people`s television viewing habits, and I don`t see that in there.

We are seeing that a bit now with C4, the one game per month probably isn't the best approach. 

But on the BBC its always been a bit random. Even on the actual matchday it was random as to whether they'd bother showing the first half, or cut us off short etc. 

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, Dave T said:

Even on the actual matchday it was random as to whether they'd bother showing the first half, or cut us off short etc. 

God, I remember Aunty's antics it was all the above and a caller losing his faculties and back to the studio for someone looking bored to say something condescending, dismissive or insulting.

I reckon it's largely because of the Beeb that we tend be grateful for any mention anywhere at all!

Edited by Oxford
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I reckon we've skirted around the real issue for far too long so here goes. Expansion hasn't failed .... Rugby League has.

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2 warning points:kolobok_dirol:

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36 minutes ago, Oxford said:

I reckon we've skirted around the real issue for far too long so here goes. Expansion hasn't failed .... Rugby League has.

No. Just no. 

We don't accept that from the likes of that a*hole Stephen Jones and the other outside trolls, so I won't accept it from an alleged RL fan.

RL has not failed, it just isn't exactly as you want it to be. Big difference. 

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3 hours ago, Dave T said:

No. Just no. 

We don't accept that from the likes of that a*hole Stephen Jones and the other outside trolls, so I won't accept it from an alleged RL fan.

RL has not failed, it just isn't exactly as you want it to be. Big difference. 

Well Dave ..... "alledged"? Mmmmmmmm!

RL has failed to decide what expansion looks like and keep with the idea for as long as it takes. That to these old eyes is not a failure of expansion but a failure of its alleged perpetrators.

You above all have pointed at the resposibilty for this failure and where it lies.

Aligning me with Stephen Jones well, well, well. Would you like to thow in the Vichies for good measure?😉😃

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18 minutes ago, Oxford said:

Well Dave ..... "alledged"? Mmmmmmmm!

RL has failed to decide what expansion looks like and keep with the idea for as long as it takes. That to these old eyes is not a failure of expansion but a failure of its alleged perpetrators.

You above all have pointed at the resposibilty for this failure and where it lies.

Aligning me with Stephen Jones well, well, well. Would you like to thow in the Vichies for good measure?😉😃

I wouldnt be that mean, and the use of the word alleged was naughty so I apologise for that. 

But RL not being where we all want it to be does not mean it's a failure. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Dave T said:

I wouldnt be that mean, and the use of the word alleged was naughty so I apologise for that. 

But RL not being where we all want it to be does not mean it's a failure. 

I just took in good humour, you're just not that sort of player.

 

There is a huge difference between failing and being a failure. RL failed because its heart is not really in expansion.

 

Edited by Oxford

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On 04/05/2022 at 11:16, Dave T said:

Agree with every word of that mate.

Completely agree with the point about affluence in the 'heartland' areas. We just don't speak to these aspirational pockets imo. 

 

Totally agree plenty of money pretty much everywhere right now, only 3 clubs currently  appeal to those that have money.

Leeds/Dragons/Toulouse 

 

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I don't think expansion has failed because I don't think there's ever really been a long-term plan in place for sustainable, lasting expansion, so nothing to really measure success/failure against. If there had been a 10-20 "grow the game" plan then we could easily assess the success or failure, but because there's never been a clear plan in place, nor an overarching strategy even at a basic level, the argument is a little trite and meaningless.

It's why there are pockets of activity in certain areas and not in others - it's basically left up to the devices of people who are interested in setting up their own clubs, with a variety of levels of experience and expertise. Hence why some areas are doing well and others are struggling.

Interestingly, in the 2022-2030 community strategy, the RFL make reference to certain opportunities being made available "across the country" but don't specify any targets for growth aside from a minimum of 3 FE (college) development centres in the London, West and Midlands areas of the country. Indeed, when it comes to community clubs, it suggests that the responsibility for development lies with foundations ("support foundations to assist in delivery of RFL development plans specific to each area.")

I've often wondered if it's worth having "The RFL" and a semi-separate "RFL South" that oversees how the game is run in these development areas. Still a part of the wider RFL, but their board would essentially have their own budget and devise their own strategy to grow the game outside of the heartlands. Their strategy would have to include some basic metrics - things like player numbers, coach numbers, referee numbers, volunteer numbers etc. But they would be free to come up with some innovative solutions to problems that just don't exist in the traditional areas of the game. For example, I imagine that coaching courses are a nightmare in the south - every club too spread out to make anywhere particularly effective as a venue, lower demand than in the heartlands. One innovative solution that an RFL South could come up with is to say that, of the 4 days for a level 2 coaching qualification, 3 of them will be done online, leaving just one "in-person" day. Or even have all of the learning online, and rather than coaches meeting in a central venue, an RFL coach assessor will travel to a club and watch the coaches coach their actual team for the assessment.

Additionally, if someone wanted to start a Rugby League club, or get their school playing, how clear is that process? Can you find it easily on the website, or do you have to email around before you can find out?

But essentially, it always comes back to the same point - who is responsible for growing the game? Until that's nailed down, there will never be any long-lasting expansion, except by chance.

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