The RFL’s reorganisation of the league structures was intended to bring ‘jeopardy’ into more matches, whereby promotion and relegation is supposed to make more matches ‘meaningful’.
The idea came from a report commissioned from KPMG.
Last week we saw the first indication of the fans’ reaction.
Wakefield and Bradford were playing each other in what, even at this stage, could already be viewed as a relegation four-pointer. And the crowd was 4,039, almost exactly half of what the same match attracted last season.
I know that it’s very early to pass judgement, but the signs don’t look promising.
I was sceptical about KPMG’s conclusions, and I still am. I don’t think Rugby League supporters are readily comparable to football supporters, as KPMG seem to assume (and I admit I haven’t seen their report, as the RFL hasn’t made it public).
It struck me as odd that the RFL would commission a report from KPMG, effectively asking an outside body about how it should structure its league competitions.
On a related point, it was also disappointing to see that, after an encouraging first week for attendances in the Kingstone Press Championship we saw four out of the six games last Sunday drawing less than 1,000 spectators. That doesn’t suggest that the fans have yet been turned on by the new league structure. I sincerely hope they will be.
I have been involved with Rugby League for a long time, and I have seen lots of ‘jeopardy’, mainly of the financial sort, in relation to individual clubs over a very long period. Stability, in my opinion, particularly in relation to the financial strength of our clubs, is much more vital than jeopardy, whatever we mean by the latter.
Stability is hard enough to achieve, as we have seen in recent years, which is why I wrote an article recently in League Express that suggested a three-year promotion and relegation cycle. That would at least give clubs the time needed to adjust to a higher or lower level of competition.
But we come back to the fact that a vital selling point of the new league structure was that clubs would increase their support at all levels of the game because fans would recognise how much is at stake in this brave new world. Now that we have gone down this route, I really do hope that the theory can be put into practice.