A MAGICAL SPECTACLE
I am a season-ticket holder for a Premiership football club, but on Saturday, because there were no Premier League matches, I was able to sit down and take in all three Magic Weekend games.
Watching the games, with two of them only being decided in the second half of extra time, I’m tempted to ask why Rugby League isn’t a much bigger sport than it is.
For sheer drama and excitement, when Rugby League is at its best, football can’t match it.
The problem for me is that living on the south coast I can’t easily get to any Rugby League matches.
For some reason the people who run Rugby League never brought it to my part of the world, surely to their own detriment.
If the sport we saw on Saturday could be played throughout the country, Rugby League would surely give football a run for its money as this country’s premier sport.
David Wilkinson, Southampton
NOT SO MAGICAL FANS
After making the trip over to Newcastle for the Magic Weekend, on the drive home I thought about how the atmosphere in the ground no longer felt family-friendly.
As a Saints fan the defeat hurt, but it was the behaviour of the fans around us that caused concern.
Every club has its morons who like nothing more to jump on the bandwagon when a big event comes along, arming themselves with a crate of lager, which they won’t be able to handle. But Saturday seemed worse than ever.
There were lots of “fans”, and I use that term loosely, spending more time goading opposition fans than watching the actual rugby on the pitch.
Throwing lager and bottles seems to be the norm now and when you see kids as young as five or six years old in tears because some idiot has thrown a pint from the back of the stands and drenched them, it makes you ask yourself whether this is somewhere where your kids can feel safe.
Add onto this the teens throwing up in the stands, drinks getting spilt everywhere because they are so drunk that they can’t carry them or even walk straight and you ask yourself whether this is still a family sport.
In previous years Magic Weekend has always had a party atmosphere with great banter between all sets of fans.
This year, however, it felt very hostile and not an exciting or safe place to watch Rugby League.
Keith Bolton, St Helens
A GREAT NIGHT AT HEWORTH
What a pleasure it was for me and seven-to-eight-hundred fans to watch an intense competitive derby between York Acorn and Heworth under lights on Friday evening.
A no-holds-barred game resulting in a thirteen-all draw, held us enthralled for eighty minutes. The officials played their part and controlled an aggressive game exceptionally well.
Heworth had probably seventy-five percent of the game, belying their and Acorn’s respective positions in the Conference League.
Andy Wilman, Huntington, York
SKY’S THE LIMIT
The biggest problem for the Rugby Football League is Sky Sports TV. They have too much say in when, where and at what time games will be played and which matches they will show, and they can also change times, dates and matches to suit themselves with little or no notice for the fans.
For example, when matches are played on a Thursday or Friday night, attendances fall because some fans work a three-shift system and others are reluctant to go to away games because of the late hour they will get home, and still get up early for work next morning.
As for restructuring the game into two leagues of ten each – utter rubbish! That would mean each team playing only eighteen games, nine home and nine away. How many fans would buy a season ticket for just nine games, with the risk of missing some because of work?
Is that expansion or reduction? And if they put some loop matches in, to make up the fixture list, how many fans would want to watch their team play the other teams three, four or even five times in a season? Not many, I think.
I suggest that we have two leagues of 14 teams each. Teams would play 26 games each, 13 home and 13 away, with promotion and relegation at the end of the season. All games to be played on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.
That would bring expansion, not reduction; simplicity is best, not complexity. If Sky TV didn’t like it, so what? Find another sponsor. Crowds were at their best before Sky TV took over.
Graham Dawson, Castleford
HOW HARD CAN SELLING A TICKET BE?
William Walker (Mailbag, Aug 23) should not be discriminated against because he is old-fashioned.
I have been a Hull KR supporter since 1961 and a pass holder for many years, but due to Covid, I did not purchase a pass for this season. I decided that when things improved I would attend on a match-by-match basis.
When entering the Rovers shop I can buy shirts, scarves, hats or anything else apart from a match-day ticket. I was told, “That is a ‘DIY job’, using your technology.”
I can go into Marks and Spencer and buy anything or I can shop online. There is a choice. Are Rugby League and Hull KR so flush that they can say, “Do it our way or stay at home”? It is so sad that many true Rugby League fans cannot attend games because of this.
I Lucas, Hull
CHANGE CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL VENUE
Surely the Million Pound Game in the Championship play-offs should be played at a neutral ground. The venue could then be announced and tickets put on sale.
It would attract spectators from many more English clubs than just those playing in the final, making quite a large attendance. And they could make it a double-header by playing the League 1 Final before the Million Pound Game.
If Toulouse were to reach the final and it was played in Toulouse, it would attract a much smaller crowd. This year to date Toulouse have not played a home game at home all season, through no fault of their own but because of Covid.
Who is to say it would be okay to play the final there on the 10th of October?
Graham Greenwood, Knottingley
HOW MUCH FITNESS IS FIT?
I recently watched a Rugby League retro game on TV, Leeds v Bradford, and the post-match comments by Bradford coach, the late Peter Fox, made interesting listening.
He felt that there wasn’t, nor ever would be, any reason for the game to go full time.
His question: “What would the players do between matches? Train? You can only get so fit; fit is fit.”
Is it possible Fox was a man ahead of his time?
Most of the injuries suffered by modern day Super League players – torn pecs, ruptured biceps and the eternal, season ending ACLs – are born of the gym and the training ground.
Is it possible the quality of the competition would improve if it were to revert to part-time status? Listening to the rumblings emanating from Sky, that is not beyond the realms of probability.
Clubs would not have time to train the life out of their players’ limbs, joints and muscles, enabling them to spend more time playing the game than queuing up for the treatment table. What an irony it would be if the improvement in quality Sky Sports is demanding could only be attained by Sky Sports pulling their coverage.
They do have a point though. The fare on offer has nose-dived over the last few seasons, as has been highlighted recently by men of experience Tony Smith, Derek Beaumont and Adam Pearson. We ignore them at our peril.
Malcolm Bastow, Leeds
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE?
Rugby Leaguer and League Express (30th August) reports that John Bateman had been charged with “using foul and abusive language towards referee Chris Kendall,” during Wigan’s 26-2 home defeat by St Helens.
Bateman successfully argued that his comments were directed towards Saints forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. So that makes it alright then?
Michael O’Hare, Northwood
SUPER LEAGUE’S NARROW AGENDA
Rugby League recently celebrated its 126th birthday, but the question is whether it can survive. Both the relationship between the RFL and Sky TV and the complexities of the Super League governing body in relation to the rest of the sport are difficult to negotiate.
The current Rugby Football League is not fit for purpose in the modern business of sport. Sky Sports appears to be driving the idea of a ‘Super League 1’ and ‘Super League 2’ with both leagues comprising ten teams, but the RFL and its CEO should be strongly negotiating and securing a long term future for the sport.
Sky Sports controls the RFL, which has placed the game’s entire survival on the Sky broadcasting money. Its senior management team is the result of institutionalised thinking in relation to promoting the sport to the commercial world. While Rugby League continues to grow at grass-roots level across the country, Sky and the RFL are closing the door on a professional pathway for players through the leagues.
Some believe that central funding for League 1 teams will drop from £68,000 to just £16.000. Some clubs in League 1 may fold, especially in development areas like Coventry, Wales, London and South Yorkshire. Even some clubs that joined the original, breakaway Northern Union 126 years ago will close for business for ever.
In my opinion, both Super League and Sky are solely focused on their own agenda and have absolutely no interest in growing the sport, both nationally and internationally. For example, in order to establish Super League’s 1 and 2, six teams would be relegated from the Championship in 2022.
With potentially half of the Championship clubs already being full time or privately invested, the top six are almost guaranteed a place before a ball is kicked. But the remaining clubs in League 1 will not survive without the support of the governing body. Rugby League is being driven backwards, by poor management and bad decision making.
Lack of forethought and the vision to move the sport forward in a commercial world means we face an uncertain future. Clubs closing, loss of supporters, reduced broadcasting revenue and more importantly, lack of player pathways within the professional leagues, all demonstrate that Super League clubs are focused only on their own interests. Vive la revolution!
Harvey Davies, Failsworth