NO SHORTENED SEASON PLEASE
Everyone involved in running our game this season must be congratulated on achieving a good presence on television, keeping the sport in our living rooms and in the public eye.
I was therefore disappointed to read in last week’s League Express that an early end to the season is being considered for clubs in the bottom half of the table. The reason given was because they “have nothing to play for”, with comments about “dead rubbers”, whatever that means.
As a Huddersfield Giants supporter always wishing to avoid the bottom half of the table, I am personally putting a different perspective on the season.
Fixture congestion has provided an opportunity for us to watch young, talented players coming through, which has been encouraging for supporters of all clubs.
The Giants have produced a good crop; it has been great to see them in action. Yes, there have been some one-sided scores, but on plenty of occasions we have seen spirited performances from the next generation at many clubs.
My apology in advance to Saints’ supporters, but this season’s results don’t really matter. What is important is to build for the future, and being able to watch the emerging talent from all clubs has been part of that process and definitely not a dead rubber.
Please let us see out the season with all Super League clubs playing.
Peter Sephton, Sheffield
INCLUSIVITY OR LIP-SERVICE?
Sky Sports has been forceful in covering the BLM movement, and recent clips showing all the black Rugby League players were enlightening.
But unfortunately, like most organisations, Sky does not always practise what it preaches.
Looking at Sky’s own Rugby League presenting team, one thing stands out like a sore thumb. All the members are white, which makes it clear their selection criteria are somewhat clouded. What Sky did, however, was to have several black ex-players giving previews and half time analysis at some Super League matches.
Progress? Maybe, or was it just appeasing the BLM movement?
The fact that the majority of the said black ex-players did a better job than the Sky Sports team members, however, must surely suggest a review of the current team.
If Sky truly cares about what they are promoting, let’s see some changes to that team giving black ex-players a chance.
Ron McGlone, Hull
I would like to thank Dick Blackwell (Mailbag 26 October) for his courteous response to my criticism of his earlier letter about black coaches in Rugby League.
However, I still believe he is misguided, when he says that overlooking the black identity of people within the game is a sign of unconscious racism.
In my view, the reality is precisely the reverse of what Mr Blackwell claims. I’m sure he would regard himself as a non-racist, but by identifying coaches and players primarily as white or black is to play the racists’ game.
I’m sure the creators of Apartheid, who pioneered the appalling system that disfigured South Africa for so many years, would agree with him that skin colour is a primary factor with which to judge a man or a woman.
But when we think of a player like Ellery Hanley, we don’t think of him as arguably the best black player to play for Great Britain, but the best player to have played for Great Britain with no conditions attached.
It’s the same with players like Billy Boston and Martin Offiah and many others too numerous to mention.
As a sport we were fortunate to witness many great players who came to Rugby League after suffering genuine racism elsewhere.
Rugby League allowed them to compete on a level playing field and they repaid our sport handsomely.
Bill Rees, Wakefield
WHY IS SUPER LEAGUE SEPARATE?
I noted in last week’s League Express that the next television contract could be worth as little as £30m per year.
Can anybody explain what Robert Elstone does or has done since he came into Super League? He hasn’t brought in any new sponsorship, he didn’t get the grant from the government, and he can’t get a the same television deal (money-wise, never mind value-wise), as we got four years ago.
The only thing he has increased is the number of people working in the Super League office. Why Super League should insist on being a separate organisation outside the Rugby Football League is a mystery.
Perhaps some readers could comment.
Mick Peace, Leeds
LESSONS IN BIOLOGY
Well done Wakefield, giving a solid performance against a poor Leeds side and gaining a fully deserved win, as the two teams have, until now, been quite evenly matched.
I was wondering, however, if Ben Thaler listened to biology lessons at school, as he seems to think shoulders are in a different place to most, less surgically minded people. The tackle by Robert Lui was neither high nor dangerous, he is not tall enough to get very high, and a tackle in the 56th minute on a Leeds player, though certainly much higher, went unpunished.
On the incident involving Mellor’s tackle, his hand was near the player’s waist and his arm around the player’s shoulder, so a red card was not applicable and the yellow card was harsh. The high-tackle ruling depends on where the referee thinks the head was.
Two things that go unpunished this season by all referees puzzle me, as most teams do them – moving off the mark at play-the-ball, and the voluntary tackle.
John Barker, Mirfield
FRUSTRATION AND DESPAIR
I really despair about the future of our game.
We have a massive issue facing us with rumoured significant income loss from Sky.
We have a governing body that the majority of fans can see is unfit for purpose, any purpose. They have dillied and dithered throughout the Covid crisis and have proved incapable of making coherent, rational or timely decisions.
They need – NOW – to be planning for next season, with contingencies for disruptions from Covid built into the planning, not some half-witted, made up on the hoof Frankenstein of a plan they throw at clubs down the line once the season has started.
The clubs, and the fans, need some certainty; as much as we love our clubs across the whole of Rugby League, I can’t see many fans taking the risk of buying season tickets without some really strong indication that there is a season to watch.
I’m aware that government legislation can throw a spanner in the works; every business should, however, have contingency plans, especially against known, likely risks. The RFL should be no different. The clubs too need to be looking at creative solutions alongside them.
If not, the loss of income from Sky will be a double whammy with the loss of fan-based income added to it.
There has to be change regarding things over which the RFL has total control.
There is absolutely no consistency in the Disciplinary Panel. The whole thing needs a shake-up in the way it is conducted, with open, transparent, consistent and explicable decisions made.
The standards of officiating are so low, so inconsistent, and, arguably, biased that they are making a mockery of the sport. It is a thankless task, I know, but they really don’t help themselves. Neither are they given the support they need to improve.
The ‘game management’ is so apparently obvious – and again I’m not just talking from a Saints’ fan perspective here – and it’s beyond a joke. When a referee (who else but Hicks) can openly say that his role involves “entertaining” as much as officiating, something is very, very wrong.
Steve Ganson has to go for starters; he’s proved himself incapable of improving standards – if anything, they go worse from year to year.
Hicks and Thaler in particular need to understand they are not some kind of Z-list celebrities. Their preening self-importance and arrogance on the pitch is an embarrassment.
A far better training regimen is needed, and quickly.
It’s soul-destroying to watch The Greatest Game – maybe a cliché, but it’s true – to be in what may well be terminal decline.
David Cheetham, Warrington
ADVERSITY CAN LEAD TO OPPORTUNITY
The forced changes to this year’s fixture list offer an opportunity to reset the structure of the game at the top level for next season.
Most fans of whichever Super League team you support, don’t like the extra loop fixtures. I suggest shrinking the season to twenty-three games – one home, one away plus the Magic Weekend.
To make up the clubs’ revenue I would revamp the Challenge Cup, as follows.
Start with the twelve Super League teams, add the top four from the Championship.
Draw four groups of four using a seeding system and then follow a straight knockout form. The top two in each group qualify for the quarter finals. That gives each club two home and two away games. Include each club’s home games as part of the season ticket.
The Championship teams proved they were competitive under the middle-eights system; this one would offer the added advantage to smaller clubs of a more realistic route to Wembley for the 1895 Cup.
Chris Drake, Pontefract.
THANKS – WITH A CAVEAT
Having applied for Rugby League World Cup tickets, I would like to thank the RLWC committee because I received a phone call from Mr Jon Dutton, CEO of RLWC 2021 Ltd, to tell me that, as a key worker, I had won tickets to the semi-final at Elland Road.
It was a fantastic surprise. But there is always a flip side to things in Rugby League.
As avid League fans, we were going to book tickets for approximately twenty games throughout the competition, but we now learn that you cannot pick individual seats, only individual price bands. This seems a major blunder by the organisers, as quite a few of the stadiums have a poor view from certain areas, even in the so-called premium price bands.
We will therefore be waiting until an option comes up to book the seats we would like.
Good luck to everyone involved with the World Cup. Perhaps things will be better organised towards the start of the tournament.
Paul and Sarah Roberts, Grimsby
WHAT, PAY UP WITH NO CHOICE?
As an avid supporter of Rugby League wanting to secure tickets for the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup, I received early notification to purchase in advance of general release.
Knowing the cost of tickets for the final is quite high, I decided to select Category B tickets at £85.00 each.
There are several areas allocated to category B tickets, both along the touchline and behind the sticks. I am sure that, like me, all fans have different preferences, so I assumed that I would be able choose the area of the ground I wish to sit in, subject to my preferred ceiling price.
To my amazement, I could neither select an area of the ground nor, when choosing a seating category, did my booking stipulate any stand, row, or seat number. I have purchased tickets previously on numerous occasions and have always been offered a choice.
Not this time; so I contacted RLWC 2021 Ltd to query the issue.
To their credit, they did reply saying I would have been allocated the best seats available, but that does not allow me any preference. They also stated that they were not segregating fans of different allegiances, giving all fans the opportunity to mingle.
Valid reasons, but I wonder if many fans have been prepared to buy in advance, outlaying such a sum without any choice of seats whatever.
As a matter of interest, I was contacted by generic e-mail after not completing the order, querying why I did not go through with my purchase.
Dave Carlisle, Leeds
LONG DISTANCE MADNESS
Just when you think things could not get any more stupid, you pick up League Express, look at the fixtures for rounds eighteen and nineteen and what do you find?
Hull FC and Hull KR have to travel all the way to St Helens to play their local derby; Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity have to do the same; yet both these games could have been played at the Huddersfield ground and the two-Lancashire-team matches over there, as arranged.
Perhaps that would not suit Sky Sports TV and it would not do to upset them. ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune,’ as the saying goes.
Sky TV has too much say on what happens with the fixtures; they can change days and times without giving much notice – or none. The RFL should try to find a new main sponsor.
Kick Sky TV into touch and take back control of Rugby League.
Graham Dawson, Castleford