Full League Express Mailbag – Monday 28th September

I take exception to some of us being labelled M62 Luddites because we question the credibility of Toronto Wolfpack.
League Express seems to be represented at both ends of the spectrum. The editor, Martyn Sadler takes up the more progressive stance while Gary Schofield seems to occupy the reactionary position. I sit somewhere in the middle.
For me, Toronto Wolfpack is an M62 club whose team flies out to Canada to play home games. Across our top three divisions: Whitehaven, Workington, Barrow, Newcastle, Coventry, London Broncos, London Skolars, West Wales, North Wales, Catalans and Toulouse are all a long way from the M62.
True, only one of those clubs may be in the top tier, but the game is about far more than Super League. Each of those aforementioned clubs is based in the town, city or region it represents. They are also engaged with their respective communities, as typified by articles about North East amateur clubs Cramlington Rockets and Newcastle Magpies in League Express last week.
Newcastle Thunder seem content to remain a semi-professional club intent on building the infrastructure of the amateur game around it, before having a shot at climbing the ladder to Super League. That for me should be the model for expansion away from the M62 heartlands.
Long and slow it may be, but much more permanent and rewarding than a TransAtlantic quick fix full of overseas journeyman, masquerading as a Canadian club.
Nick Robinson, Beverley

If there is any doubt at all about the application by Carlo LiVolsi to take over running Toronto Wolfpack, why do Elstone and Rimmer delay the decision, leaving the former players still in financial limbo?
The decision should be a resounding no. Martyn Sadler’s plea for them to be re-admitted was over the top.
Championship and League 1 clubs have had no income since March; the Super League clubs are playing (and look like having to play) with no supporters for some considerable time. Why does Martyn seem concerned about a Canadian club that cannot play for the first months of the year due to weather conditions and has only being going for a few years, rather than for clubs here, many of which have existed for over a hundred years?
Some of our lower league clubs must be struggling already, and with the upcoming Sky renewal likely to be lower than before, all lower league clubs could be facing a bleak future. Let’s put our energy and money-making schemes into helping our existing clubs.
As Garry Schofield says, let’s say goodbye Toronto.
Ian Haskey, Castleford

Unless ‘Supergreed’ excludes the Toronto Wolfpack; unless they hand power back to the Rugby Football League and create a fourteen-team league, it looks like it’s time to watch the lower leagues instead.
If they can obtain a television deal, that is. Even a modest deal would compete with the scraps from Super League. The threat of a breakaway might even focus a few Super League minds, although I suspect they would be happy to rid themselves of the burden of the lower leagues. But where would their players come from then?
Contempt from ‘across the pond’ for the M62 and heritage teams is stunning. Without us, Toronto would not have a league to play in, nor Ottawa a team without former Widnes players. The Championship should not be a dumping ground for failed Super League experiments. Don’t send them here again please, they are not welcome.
The Catalans Dragons are moaning about the cost of private air travel, and Toronto Wolfpack now want central funding, but where is the money to come from?
I am all for expansion, but let’s focus on Cumbria, Wales, London, Scotland and only let in teams with a robust business model. I am not convinced the new Toronto will pay their players, fulfil their fixture list, provide any Canadian players or stop slagging off the M62 teams.
Nor, it seems, is Mr Elstone but, ‘The new Toronto’s gonna be just awesome’ I hear them say.
Aye, right!
Davie Roberts, Glasgow

I have been considering, in view of Covid-19 and player safety, how best to proceed with next season’s fixtures.
We are (allegedly) a summer sport, so the Super League season next year should commence on the week ending 3rd of March. Each team should play just twenty fixtures (twenty-two if Canada still has a team in the competition). There will be less stress on players.
As some readers may know, I do not think Toronto should be let back into Super League. The new owners have made it clear that Super League is their only option, but how annoyed must Bradford and Widnes supporters be, after the penalties given to their clubs for financial irregularities?
I suppose that, if we do have to have Toronto back, a twelve-point deduction would help, but for me Valencia would have been a better target for expansion, even though I remember previous efforts to expand in Italy.
We gave up and let the other code develop there.
Jeff Bunting, Hull

The Rugby League World Cup tickets offer reminds me of investigations when I was at junior school into ‘kidnapping’ by a certain religious order – “Recruit a child before it turns seven and it will be ours for life.”
My coterie applauds any interest in attracting fans under sixteen and surely even younger ones should not be forgotten. For some of us, Rugby League initiation rites began with school trips and a wonderful adventure to Wembley for the 1957 Cup Final hooked us.
We are still hooked after more than sixty years, and how are we rewarded?
The World Cup organiser, RLWC2021, tells us that: “After lengthy and protracted research” there will be no ticket concessions for us older, loyal fans. Why might extensive research have led them to that decision? Answer: “You lot aren’t going to be around for much longer, so why should we care?”
In other words, RLWC2021 is slip-streaming the ticketing for Wembley and the Grand Final at Old Trafford, assuming that a minority will moan but the majority will still pay up. Oh no we won’t; not this time around!
Our message to the RLCWC 2021 planning team: “Most of you will get to our age one day and, like us, suffer the consequences of a meagre pension in your pockets.”
Bernie Eccleston, Thirsk

Is it just me, or is Dave Woods channelling his inner Eddie Waring?
The whole tone of the BBC coverage is coming across as jokey; a sort of laddish banter, as if Rugby League is the comedy cousin of ‘real rugger’.
‘Jiffy’ (Jonathan Davies OBE) is a bit past his sell-by date, ‘Nobby’ (Brian Noble) is slipping into the comedy, matey routine and although John Wilkin does a good enough job, the whole thing needs a shake-up.
Even Clare Balding took our game more seriously than this current bunch.
Anton Grashion, Edinburgh

Do Warrington have their own referee every week now in the form of Robert Hicks?
This week against the Dragons there were penalties galore and decisions blatantly going for Warrington. On his nights off I think he’s the fella inside the Wolfie costume.
Super League please give Rob a break and let him referee some other teams occasionally.
Walter Lewis, Billinge. Wigan

May I extend my congratulations to your excellent publication for your continued efforts to deliver content when many others have been unable to do so.
In particular, I would like to give praise to Matthew Shaw, who now appears to be in a league of his own in getting news stories in the Northern Hemisphere.
However, I must plead with you to change his picture on the match report pages, which make him look like he’s trying to hold his bladder! His reports would be even more enjoyable under a more natural-looking shot.
Thank you for your work.
Roger Keyes, Halton

Can someone from Super League please explain why almost all the games in recent weeks have been played in Lancashire?
On the 24th and 25th of September, six Yorkshire teams had to go all the way to the Warrington Wolves’ Halliwell Jones stadium in Lancashire to play matches, some of which could as well have been played at the John Smith’s Stadium or Headingley.
Three of the Lancashire teams are almost next-door neighbours. Other games to be played should be planned with fairer venues in mind.
Graham Dawson, Castleford

Mick Morgan’s observation about the unfairness of the Golden Point is dead right.
In a normal league competition, if you have battled to a draw in normal time you get a share of the spoils. Instead now, in Super League, we have to witness the scruffy spectacle of both sets of players spending several minutes attempting drop-goals, at the end of which one side gets both valuable points, which is clearly an unjust way to finish a contest.
In the current circumstances we should have quietly dropped it. We should abandon it next year.
John Noton, Harrogate

I am opposed to any player having to participate in a ritual or gesture he does not feel comfortable with, but some comments in this Mailbag on ‘taking the knee’ have bordered on the bizarre.
‘Keep politics out of sport!’ Are you kidding? This is Rugby League: the founding of the Northern Union, broken time payments? That was politics. So were the Super League wars down under, and a century and more’s persecution of Rugby League by the Rugby Union establishment and their media allies. Wouldn’t it have been welcomed then, if other athletes like footballers and cricketers had made some sort of protest in the interests of fairness and justice?
It’s called solidarity, a cornerstone of trade unionism, which one hopes most supporters of a northern working-class sport would understand.
BLM is not about the United States or the UK; it is a global movement for equality and justice – the very values some of your correspondents claim are endemic in Rugby League.
The focus is on ‘black’ rather ‘all’ lives, because centuries of slavery, colonialism, and to the present day, racism, suggest rather convincingly that black lives have not mattered as much as white lives. Read the history, the philosophy, the psychology citing black people as inherently inferior to justify their ill-treatment.
We who encountered ‘keep politics out of sport’ fifty years ago, during protests against (apartheid) South African cricket and rugby tours, saw clearly that a demand for sport without politics is a demand for sport without a conscience. Some of your correspondents may want that but I don’t.
For me, two years in the 1970s researching black communities in the UK, working with various black communities since then, and currently having black friends and colleagues with whom I regularly discuss these issues, mean I could have predicted the riots in the early 1980s and 2011 several years before they happened. To think all is well here is to be ill informed. Racism is endemic in British society and the term ‘tolerant’ demands a rethink.
How would we feel about a sign outside any establishment saying, “We tolerate Rugby League players and their supporters.” Did we tolerate Billy Boston, Clive Sullivan or Ellery Hanley?
Perhaps those who claim Rugby League is ‘one big happy family’ missed recent reports in the national press, and League Express, quoting the only black head coach in our professional game, Jermaine Coleman of London Skolars, suggesting that all is not well regarding racism in Rugby League. He has been interviewed in the Guardian. It looks like high time he was interviewed for League Express.
Dick Blackwell, London