Full League Express mailbag – Monday 7th September

Martyn Sadler mentioning Lionel Morgan as the first indigenous player in any sport to be selected for Australia (Talking Rugby League, 31 August) certainly struck a harmonious and nostalgic chord for the non-blinkered, non-hypercritical, naturally anti-racist folk of my generation.
It added fuel also to my recommendation, in concert with fellow-minded pals, that ‘Black Lives Matter’ should be binned or put into the nearest charity shop. Rugby League, since its outset, has been the greatest flag bearer for racial equality, harmony and inclusion in UK sport.
Why therefore, after well over a century as the supreme example of colour equality in sport, is the present Rugby Football League allowing the game’s hitherto healthy reputation to be dragged through the mire of current political point-scoring hypocrisy?
Biggest amongst the noises of ‘Black Lives Matter’ hypocrites appears to be the tax exile, Louis Hamilton, who drives for and advertises the same firm as structured much of the technology and equipment in support of Hitler’s Nazi regime, whilst also happily competing to boost the financial coffers and cosmetic image of countries such as Saudi Arabia, where the human rights record is appalling.
I have yet to note any of these knee-bending pontificators doing anything positive to help black lives.
It is sad that, after all the genuine good Rugby League has done over many years regarding racial equality, the present-day administration has allowed it to plummet into a political scrum down.
My participation in the North of England and Scottish summertime sports meetings brought me into friendship with Clive Sullivan and, at one such event at Wakefield Trinity in 1972, with the reigning Olympic 200-metre champion Tommy Smith, who was also competing and was eternally famous for his rostrum Black Power salute. Noting Clive Sullivan’s ethnic features, Tommy asked if he had encountered any racist problems.
Sullivan, himself on the threshold of becoming a World Cup winning captain and the first black player to captain his country in any sport, smilingly replied along the lines of Rugby League being “one big happy family.”
Let us try to keep it that way!
Roger Ingham, Skipton

I have an issue with last week’s Readers Poll criticising the Rugby Football League, in that all the offered options were to some degree in favour of political slogans and gestures at Rugby League matches.
Where was the option, “Slogans and gestures in support of political pressure groups have no place at sporting events, and should not have been allowed in the first place?”
An opinion poll should canvass ALL opinions, not just those deemed acceptable by the ’Thought and Speech Police’. I was surprised to see it because, in the first two weeks after this issue arose League Express seemed to be of the same opinion, saying you hoped we had seen the last of it.
That aside, thanks for keeping going throughout the summer with very little to report on. It helps to keep us sane.
P Tyson, Wigton

I would like to thank the editor of League Express, and the Mailbag, for continuing to publish all through the recent lockdown. We look forward to reading the paper every Monday.
Like Mike Tudor (Mailbag, 10th August) and Bill Anderson (Mailbag, 24th August), I also object strongly to the indiscriminate, blanket guilt currently being thrown over our very tolerant society.
Mr Anderson perfectly described what is happening, and, as Mr Tudor explained, BLM is a political movement. Do our players taking the knee actually know what that movement stands for?
Do they know that, despite 34,000 Brits having given BLM in excess of £1 million, that movement will not become a registered charity because, according to BLM UK, “A charity structure would not allow us the freedom and flexibility to do our political work in the ways we wish to do it.”
Do our players know that the BLM movement wants to close prisons and detention centres, dismantle the police, get rid of borders, and that (among other things) they condemn ‘stop and search’? Why are we not celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion on stadium banners?
The Wakefield club is right; it should be, “about people, not politics”.
Elaine Haller, Wickersley

When the RFL tries to negotiate the next TV deal I’d like to know whether they have approached other TV companies.
Let’s remember that Super League was set up with Sky money, but maybe as a game we have stood still since 1996. Super League was created so the top division could go professional and in order to do that it needed outside money.
The clubs did not generate enough income themselves and still don’t, and It will be hard for them until Covid is defeated.
But surely by now all Super League teams should have modern grounds. The teams that haven’t have had 24 years since Super League began and 125 in total since Rugby League was formed.
But unfortunately as a game we blame anyone but ourselves.
Andrew Mathews, Didcot

Has Sky commentator Stuart Pyke had the Covid virus and been in an induced coma for a couple of weeks?
I ask as, during the Salford v Castleford commentary on Thursday evening, he made reference to Salford getting heavily beaten by Hull FC last weekend on more than one occasion. He even quoted the 54-18 score once, which in fact was in Salford’s favour on August 9th, over 3 weeks ago.
In the 68th minute of the game he remarked “Danny Richardson’s drop goal on 75 minutes is the difference between the two sides.” Maybe his watch is as confused as he is.
Jon Wiles, Hessle, Hull

I have just spent my entire Saturday sport-watching tuned in to Sky TV’s football.
I have sat and suffered through two League Cup ties (one involving my home town team) and an England Nations League match – a total of four and a half hours without seeing a single goal (penalty shoot-outs apart) and then along comes one for England.
Another penalty! Iceland missed their penalty a minute later.
Even as someone who thinks modern day Rugby League is a pale imitation of the real thing, I think I will probably stick to watching the Warriors, Wolves, Rhinos and Raiders of this sporting world until something better comes along.
Peter Wilson, Walney, Cumbria

Allowing Toronto Wolfpack back into Super League gets a definite no from me.
While people mentioned “up to ten thousand extra spectators into Super League”, the Super League clubs themselves got no benefit.
I look at their time in Rugby League and see not one home-grown player they have produced. A club for out-of-contract players at the end of their careers.
Meanwhile, people are saying the new ‘six again’ rule is a death knell for big forwards.
But roll back to the 1966/67 season, when the ‘four tackle’ rule was introduced, and the same thing was being said then.
The first winner of the Challenge Cup under the ‘four tackle’ rule was Featherstone Rovers. Arnie Morgan, 18 stone; Malcolm Dixon, 19 stone; and Les Tonks, 20 stone played in that victory. And remember, there were only two substitutes then.
Ah well!
Mick Morgan, Castleford

A game of Rugby League has been likened to being mugged 30 times in 80 minutes.
A game of thuggery for northern yobs, the Rugby Union lads say, but as a referee you have to make sense of it; keep control while letting the game flow.
It helps not to be ‘whistle happy’. Don’t be afraid of talking and explaining decisions. Most of the young sides don’t know the rules anyway and some of their parents definitely don’t.
You have to monitor safety to avoid serious injuries so don’t take any lip from ‘gobby’ players, but there is no worse sight for a referee than some demented father or mother screaming total rubbish from the touchline at a junior game, while their little boy or girl (who is trying to enjoy playing) squirms with embarrassment at their parent’s behaviour.
I’ve seen one excited dad sprinting down the touchline shouting, “Go on son!”, run into a tree and knock himself out. I’ve seen a mother shove her push-chair out (with a toddler in it) to trip up an opposing winger about to score. We see props pack with one arm so the other arm is free to punch people under the scrum. One hooker bit his own arm then blamed it on an opposition player.
One thing a referee has to be very alert for is a ‘999 call’ from a captain, meaning: “Any trouble and it’s one in, all in.” That way, the referee can’t single out any one player to penalise and he can hardly send a whole team off, especially in a Cup game.
Rugby League can be a game of skill, wit, speed, and thrilling grace of movement.
Let’s not allow the hot-heads to take over, turning our matches into games of violence bordering at times on criminal brutality. Let the referees go out and enjoy themselves too.
It’s ‘Our Game’ and it’s also theirs.
Paul Spivey, Dewsbury and Batley Referees Society

I fully agree with Stuart Glendenning’s criticism of Super League’s agreement with Papa John’s Pizza (Mailbag, 31 August).
If it were not so bad it would be funny, but it is not. It holds this sport up for ridicule.
This chimes with comments made previously that the next agreement with Sky Sports will be financially less than the last one. It is depressing, as a supporter, to read and listen to such comments.
Another problem concerns Covid-19 testing. What is going on? Why do they only find out that players have it after a game? There should be tests before and after. Once again it is absurd and turns the sport into a laughing stock.
The Rugby League authorities need to get a grip, and quickly. If it carries on this way we could end up with a fixture list with all games cancelled.
John Wheeler, Sandbach

Few Rugby League fans will doubt that some clubs from the top three divisions are now vulnerable and may go to the wall.
Two major factors are at play: 1. playing with no gate income, and worse 2. not playing at all, which the two lower professional and all semi-professional clubs are currently facing.
One imagines that few people who paid for season tickets will have requested a refund, but what about the vast majority who, like me, pay per-game?
Largely due to my being 70 miles north and a pensioner, I go to watch Leeds Rhinos only several times a season, but they are hardly the club most affected by this unforeseen crisis.
What I propose, especially for the Championship, Division One and lower-supported Super League teams (which rely heavily on a sugar daddy or are fan run), is that each supporter should calculate how much they would normally contribute in a season, and set up a direct debit now to pay over six months the contribution they would usually make.
People may say, “Why should we?”
Well, you don’t have to. This is a suggestion. But I am emailing Leeds to ask if they would like to receive my financial input.
If someone doesn’t want or cannot afford to do this, they are certainly not obliged to do anything. It is purely voluntary.
Without some financial help, though, the 2021 season may start with far fewer clubs, and we have precious few already, though the spectacle is so great.
Brian Collinson, Middleton-in-Teesdale

I agree with Les Graham (Mailbag, 31 August) regarding the coverage of Rugby League on Radio 4.
Along with the majority of Radio 4’s audience (Berwick to Basingstoke, Bognor to Bude) I too would not know a play-the-ball from a policeman’s ball these days.
That is simply because modern day Rugby League does not have one.
Growing up and learning the game in Middleton, South Leeds, we would have been given the hair dryer treatment by our (teacher) coaches, including Mr Harry Jepson, if we had been so lazy and disrespectful as to fall forwards and roll the ball back sloppily, as per nowadays.
Les is right, the mainstream media do treat Rugby League with contempt, but I hope he will agree that the game’s top brass should be making players show pride in the game and abide by its laws.
Tony Winstanley, Castleford