IMG SHOULD CONSIDER A RETURN TO WINTER
Martyn Sadler’s listing of the ten key points he believes should be considered within the IMG review of the sport (Talking Rugby League, 15 August) omitted what I feel is fundamental to its future.
When should Rugby League actually be played in this country?
A little like recalling that our power supplies, water and railways used to be in public ownership, it is important to remember that Rugby League was a winter game until not very long ago and consider whether it has genuinely progressed in the summer era.
A key argument for shifting the season was aligning it to the NRL and enhancing international competition within the game. Unfortunately, the end result has been precisely the opposite, with Rugby League’s international profile in this country virtually disappearing. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of UK citizens would nowadays be unable to name a single top Rugby League player.
While I sincerely hope the forthcoming World Cup will address this situation, the return of regular international matches and tours offers the only long-term answer to raising the sport’s profile and this will not happen while we stick to the current summer season.
I also hope that IMG will closely examine attendance figures during their review as it interests me that they seem higher during the winter and spring before dropping off during the summer.
As a Wakefield Trinity supporter, I recall our largest home crowd this season being in the middle of February, while neighbours Castleford were remarkably achieving 10,000-plus crowds early in the season.
I understand that the often unrealistic expectations of teams may have a bearing on attendances at that stage. But this doesn’t altogether explain what appears to be a clear general decline as the season progresses. Why, for example, has Castleford’s average dropped by almost 4,000 spectators per match when they remain firmly within the top six?
Finally, it is imperative that the IMG review takes player welfare seriously. It would be remiss of them not to question whether, with clearly rising temperatures through global warming, it is reasonable to expect players to compete in the kind of temperatures we have been experiencing in the UK over the past few weeks. This is an issue facing the French teams on a more regular basis and the game must address it from a health and safety perspective.
With temperatures above 30C for Trinity’s last home match – against Wigan, for the fourth time this season – I gave serious thought to not undertaking the 40-mile round trip. I eventually went but, despite the result, honestly doubt that the fixture should have been played in such horrendous conditions.
While I accept that broadcasting contracts have a clear bearing on when the game is played, in the longer term a return to being a winter sport must be seriously considered and I hope that IMG recognise this point.
David Hinchliffe, Holmfirth
LAY OFF THE REFS
Having read yet more bleating, whining and accusations of bias and cheating in relation to referees, can I please plead with Rugby League fans to stop this ref-bashing and focus on the positive aspects of the sport?
It’s almost as if no team ever plays poorly and only loses because the referee is a cheat.
In response to Brian Hodgson and Graham Dawson in the Mailbag from last week (15 August), the referee can only stop the game once the doctor has entered the field. Did you know this and did you consider that the Castleford doctor hadn’t entered the field of play and that’s why the referee didn’t stop play?
To Mike Wright, have you ever thought that Toulouse’s indiscipline gave the referee no option other than to penalise them?
Referees are professionals doing their jobs to the best of their abilities, just like players and coaches are. Yes, a ref makes mistakes but not half as many as players and coaches do, and they have a far harder role during the game. So let’s cut them some slack. A professional referee has no interest in who wins or loses; they are only concerned with doing their best to progress their own careers and don’t favour either team.
Instead of bashing and criticising the officials, why not have a go at dumb players and coaches who want their players to push the boundaries and make the referees’ jobs easier and improve the spectacle of the sport?
Martin Eastwood, Huddersfield
Could you find space to print this brief note of thanks and praise for the magnificent displays by the Cougars, both on and off the field throughout this season.
No doubt there will be much comment when they mathematically wrap up the League 1 title. So, in advance from a long-time follower and one-time resident of the town, thanks a million for a relentlessly superb summer.
Jack Miller’s 10 goals out of 10 last week was a true captain’s effort that sums it all up.
Stuart Stanton, Leeds
DON’T TAKE AWAY CLUBS’ ASPIRATIONS
Keighley have had a great season, going unbeaten (so far) and based on assumptions that we would get promotion, the owners have invested in quality players to give us a squad that will hopefully compete in the Championship, as well as getting the go-ahead for some major ground improvements.
Surely the eventual goal down the line is to get to Super League.
Looking at York as an example since their promotion, they have become a competitive force, play out of a great stadium and are now looking likely to make the play-offs again, with the eventual goal of making the Super League.
This must surely be the goal and dream of every team playing professional Rugby League, so it is disheartening when Martyn Sadler says promotion and relegation are ruinous for the game.
The Championship and League One are made up of predominantly heartland clubs who are Rugby League through and through, and expansion teams trying their best to develop and grow.
They support their teams week in, week out, paying money at this time of financial difficulty in the hope, no matter how small, that one day their team will reach the big time.
Look at the great rugby served up by Championship teams on Monday night TV. Teams at the lower levels are producing great entertainment, all with the goal of eventually reaching the big time.
Rugby League is not just Super League. That needs to be remembered.
I am sure fans of Toulouse, Hull KR, Castleford, Leigh, London, Widnes and Huddersfield appreciate that they all, at one time, progressed from the Championship to Super League.
Take this hope and aspiration away and we will lose a lot of what makes Rugby League the sport it is.
James Sharples, Paignton, Devon
NO HIDING PLACE
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read (Mailbag, 15 August) the rather distasteful letter by Mick Calvert.
I am proud to live in a Christian country where free speech is, on the whole, allowed. I do not profess to be a religious fanatic, but I do possess a Bible, which clearly states that God made Adam, a man, and his wife Eve, a woman, as the first couple on Earth.
On the assumption that these Manly players are Christians, they were not hiding behind their religion at all. They believe that a man and a woman should live together.
That does not mean if you are a trans or gay you should be ashamed. That is their choice in a free country that is Australia and it is the players’ choice not to wear a rainbow jersey.
Regarding the upcoming FIFA World Cup, the way other countries behave, unless they impact on the UK, is quite simply nothing whatsoever to do with us.
As for this country, if the people running our sport wish to bring in rules in relation to transgender players, that is what we have administrators for, to administer the rules and, after a vote, to allow new rules to be added to their rule book.
There are many rules in the RFL rule book that appear to some of us to be stupid, but they have been brought in democratically and we have to live with them.
You are entitled to your opinion , but I am also entitled to reply to it.
Ian Haskey, Castleford
I’m not sure that the comments of two of your correspondents in last week’s Mailbag alleging homophobia in some quarters belong in a sporting publication.
That is just my opinion which, as far as I am aware at the time of writing, I am allowed to express in an open forum. Some of a certain mindset, generally within the minority, may be taken aback at such effrontery.
Also, I cannot agree with Mick Calvert’s misguided comments suggesting that people born as male who have decided to become ‘trans’ should be allowed to compete in women’s sports.
I haven’t yet heard of any instances where the opposite gender reassigned issue has arisen, in other words, people born as female looking to compete against heterosexual males.
David Hitchen, Wigan
TOULOUSE’S ODDS AGAINST
I totally agree with Mike Wright and Graham Dawson (Mailbag 15 August) concerning the refereeing of Chris Kendall, particularly in the Warrington and Toulouse match.
At half time Toulouse were leading and playing well.
In the second half Toulouse were penalised 9-1 and had two men in the sinbin at separate times. No wonder they lost!
Even the match commentators mentioned it.
Graham Harland, Leeds
CATALANS AND SUPER LEAGUE
As a Widnes fan, it angers me when people who should know better claim that the Catalans earned the right to play in Super League and are there on merit.
The fact is that the Catalans did not earn a place in Super League. They were given Widnes’s place and later they were given Castleford’s place.
The people who claim otherwise are not being fair to the two clubs that were wrongly thrown out of Super League to make way for the Catalans.
Joseph Hamell, Widnes
OPPORTUNITY LOST IN WALES
I recently attended the Swinton v Keighley League 1 game and was more than impressed by the improvements that have been made to the facilities at Heywood Road.
As such, I have no doubt that the ground will be a more than adequate host of the recently announced Wales v Lebanon Rugby League World Cup warm-up game.
However, I am still slightly puzzled as to why the game isn’t being played in Wales. The North Wales Crusaders have had a great season and Eirias Parc, where they play their home matches, has long held Under-20 Rugby Union Internationals.
I appreciate that RGC, the Rugby Union side that also plays there, have a game on the 8th of October (the date of the Wales v Lebanon game). But surely it would have been possible to look at playing the Rugby League game there on the 9th or, if that were not possible, at another venue within Wales.
The Rugby League World Cup is surely in part about boosting interest in the game and introducing it to a new audience.
I feel an opportunity to do both has rather been lost here.
William Morecombe, Prestatyn
BBC SHOULD EMBRACE THE WORLD CUP
If it were not for Australia, would a multinational Rugby League World Cup be taking place this year?
The straight answer is no.
Their multi-ethnic society has led to first, second and third generation Australians being willing to put their hands up and play for the nations of their forebears.
They provide players for nearly every country taking part.
It must give a sense of pride to Australian families whose grandsons, sons, daughters and granddaughters will be playing for Greece, Lebanon, Italy, the Pacific island nations and so on.
And we should not demean any World Cup nation with Australians in their team who may not have been born in the country they are playing for.
We should embrace it.
The South Pacific nations provide great pre-game entertainment with their respective national hakas, and full-blown commitment on the field yet, though we are just weeks away from a World Cup, no-one would know it. The BBC (broadcaster of the event with sole live-coverage rights) has hardly mentioned it.
They do not televise live, regular games, so even more they should right now be promoting it.
It is only common sense for them to heavily promote a forthcoming World Cup.
John Wheeler, Cheshire
SMALL DECISION – BIG EFFECT
If you are a Salford supporter ,last Monday morning’s League Express ‘Red Devis v Giants’ match report, league tables, leading scorers and Albert Goldthorpe table all made good reading.
Well done, Salford!
I then looked at the disciplinary decisions to see that three Leeds players had been banned for their actions during the previous week’s Leeds v Salford game.
I looked at that match report, which talked about a resurgent Leeds, with a 10-5 penalty count in their favour and a Salford player sinbinned for cumulative indiscretions.
I noticed that Leeds players had been suspended for a high tackle (two matches), dangerous contact (one match) and a trip (two matches, reduced on appeal, because the referee hadn’t penalised the player for the offences during the game).
If one, two or all had been sinbinned or sent off during the game, would Leeds have been so resurgent?
Kevin Caudwell, Edenfield, Lancashire.
THE LEEDS RULE BOOK
Could someone tell me who sits on the RFL Disciplinary Committee, because hardly a week goes by without one or more Leeds players getting suspended.
And apparently the size of the suspension goes on a player’s past record.
David Fusitu’a, who is in his first season as a Leeds player, was suspended for a high tackle when, watching the games on TV, I see high tackling go unpunished regularly. Although I was at the game, I don’t remember his tackle.
Aidan Sezer was punished for a trip. But what was the difference between that and Olly Ashall-Bott’s trip the previous night?
As for Rhyse Martin and previous games, I don’t remember him having a disciplinary problem.
And Matt Prior must think it’s a lot hotter here than in Australia, as he is getting plenty of time off this season.
Sometimes I think the referees forget that it’s a contact sport. Leeds are no different to any of the other teams, but we do appear to have to play to a different rule book – one that I can’t find at any stationers.
John Barker, Mirfield
SORT IT OUT
I am 88 years old and have been watching Rugby League since being a teenager.
But I have never been more disillusioned with the standard of refereeing as I am now.
It seems that some teams get everything, while others get nothing, depending on who is the referee.
Some infringements are permitted, while others are let go.
It’s about time something was sorted out.
Julia Blease, Swinton
ECHOES OF THE PAST
I read with interest Brian Langthwaite’s letter on the subject of Western and Eastern conferences (Mailbag 15th August).
After giving his letter some thought could I also suggest a few things.
Supposing that Super League 1 and 2 played each other three times. It would make Super League even more unentertaining and, in my opinion, more sterile than it is at the moment.
Perhaps we could even call the two regional conferences the Lancashire League and the Yorkshire League. This would give us a northern nomenclature and maybe even a marketable tool.
Similarly, the cross-conference play-offs could be called something like The Top Four Play off. I think I also read that a pre- or early-season competition was mooted. Maybe we could call this, say, The Lancashire Cup and the Yorkshire Cup.
What? Oh, my mate Bob, who is looking over my shoulder, says that this has been tried before.
“You mean when we could beat the Australians in Australia, fill Wembley with 100,000, have magnificent tours, win the World Cup and not have to suffer change almost every season? He says “yes.” Ah well!
On the subject of IMG being the adjudicator, we have a Rugby League Council and a great executive led by Messrs Johnson and Rimmer. Do we really need a third level of governance?
Equal funding within the game as it stands is still a problem but yes, Brian, I can’t help but agree with you on your final point.
Could it be that the realisation is setting in that perhaps Rugby League was never destined to be a full-time sport?
T Todd, Whitehaven
A NEW SHAPED COMPETITION MIGHT WORK
Supporters will not continue with a lost cause; they expect an evenly matched contest.
They also like to see their own team occasionally take on the best, preferably at home. Hence the magic of The Cup.
This seems a recipe for division and separation. It isn’t, but it does need judicious fixture planning and a shrewd calculation of tribal and geographic loyalties, which points to East and West zones.
East being Yorkshire, Tyneside and London, West being Lancashire and Cumberland, and the French teams in France would reduce travel costs.
Any club with the potential to attract a 5,000 plus crowd and commensurate facilities would be admitted. Teams within each area would play each other once yearly, at alternative locations.
The top four in each area would play the other area’s top four, home and away. The bottom four from each area would play the other four from the other area, home and away.
The top four, as now, would contest a Grand Final. The bottom four would do the same, with the prize of avoiding bottom place.
Each club would only be allowed three foreign-born players.
Under eighteens would be paid the same – or nothing! Transfer fees would be determined by the number of subsequent appearances and a 50 per cent of any sell-on fee.
This would apply to any under-18 player being recruited from a club who is already over 18 years old. Sending off should only be for ten minutes or, for more serious offences, to allow a substitute to replace a player. It cannot be fair to reduce a team’s capacity to compete effectively due to the actions of one individual, as interpreted by the referee.
The penalised player should be punished afterwards by his club according to the prescribed statutes, including suspension and/or fines.
Reducing the numbers for more than ten minutes in Rugby League, unless near full time, is to kill the game for all parties.
Paul Killroy, Leeds