League Express mailbag – Monday 7th July


‘Toothless’ and ‘farce’ were two words apportioned, by the respected Rugby League journalist Gareth Walker, to the RFL and Super League’s organisation – or lack of it – for the recent England v Combined Nations All Stars fixture.

The Hull FC owner, Adam Pearson, and international winger Jermaine McGillvary, also commented at the end of last month that the sport is in decline.  Nigel Wood’s regime rightly received its fair share of criticism but management of the game since his departure has reached new depths.

Robert Elstone was a disaster, and current supremo, Ralph Rimmer is seemingly cut from the same cloth; he is rarely seen or heard. When we do see him on our screens he appears not to take anything seriously and the respect with which he was held within the game has dwindled.

The ‘big four’ clubs (so called by the aforementioned Pearson): Leeds, St Helens, Warrington and Wigan, will perhaps step in; bring in a leader who can halt the decline; attract some ‘proper’ sponsors to bring in some badly needed, significant funds to the game.

I witnessed the terrific atmosphere at first hand, when my local team, Barrow – recently hosting Workington Town – attracted a crowd of 3,146 with their management doing a tremendous job, both on and off the field.

The interest in Rugby League remains, but sadly we have no dynamic leaders in the top positions.

Jim Howard, Kirkby Lonsdale



At long last, two people – Gareth Walker and Jermaine McGillvary – have come out with some very good home truths.

It was like a breath of fresh air to read their views in last week’s League Express.

Some of the decisions being made make me wonder whether the powers-that-be know anything about Rugby League.

It now looks as though there are no matches on Thursday night, but one on Sunday at 7.30pm, which is a nightmare for the press.

My opinion is that the people running the game could not, as the saying goes, organise a booze-up in a brewery.

Mrs K Fern, Halifax



With reference to Graham Dawson’s letter (Mailbag, 28th June) bemoaning referee Chris Kendall’s awarding of ‘six again’ to Catalans early in the tackle count and ‘six again’ being awarded to Castleford later in the tackle count.

Just a thought, but perhaps it was because that was when the offences were committed.

I didn’t see the game, but that would be my conclusion unless Graham has evidence that the referee was in the pay of the Catalans club and evidence of why he would favour Catalans over Castleford.

The RFL was, after all, the organisation that attempted to penalise Catalans for winning the Challenge Cup by insisting they pay a bond to enter the following year.

Michael O’Hare, Northwood



I have been watching tennis at Wimbledon, motor racing in Belgium, cycling in France and, heaven help me, and something called football in the UK.

But nowhere have the restrictions been more draconian or stupid than at the DW Stadium.

We are advised that we cannot bring our own food into the stadium, in spite of the fact that all food and drink outlets are closed.

Of course in the ‘real’ world you can buy food and drink from anywhere you like.

How is eating something I have prepared in my own kitchen going to spread Covid?

We have been told that we cannot chant or clap, a rule that obviously does not apply to football fans at Wembley.

Why are we exhorted to wear masks when we are in the open, and socially distanced from other fans?

Stupid or what?

Val Andrews, Lytham St Annes



Having witnessed a very erratic refereeing performance by Mr Hicks at Salford last Sunday it would be interesting to compare the penalty count and the set restarts, which seemed to be heavily in favour of the home team.

I was also under the impression that, when a try is scored, the player had to be in the field of play.

Although it was a wonderful effort by Chris Atkin, I was stood directly behind where he scored. In trying to improve the angle he put his left foot over the dead-ball line, which neither Mr Hicks nor the touch judge appeared to see.

To use the old adage, the tactic used by Salford in their desperation for a win was to get in their opponents’ faces literally.

John Barker, Mirfield



While watching the England v Combined Nations All-Stars game on Friday 25 June, I noticed various national flags on the shoulders of the Combined Nations players.

For instance, I think Aidan Sezer was wearing Turkey and PNG.

You then touched on this in your article about Jermaine McGillvary in last week’s edition, referring to the Grenada flag that he had on his shirt.

I was hoping that the match report would note which flags each player wore.

Is this something you could do retrospectively as a short article?

Steve Bishop, Leeds



It was ironic that Mike Worthington was depressed about the letters published in the 14 June edition of Mailbag, including my own on the subject of black players.

He then went into a depressing condemnation of Rugby League’s treatment of black players.

I do know my general (and in particular Wigan) Rugby League history, and the black players in it. Harry Sunderland gave Roy Francis the cold shoulder during his time at Wigan, and my uncle was at the match at Swinton when Billy Boston vaulted the boundary wall to confront a spectator who had abused him.

I know about the apartheid regime, which made it impossible for Billy to join the Great Britain tourists on their exhibition tour of South Africa in 1962.

Mike Worthington asserts that if it takes the murder of a man in the US to highlight discrimination in society, then he welcomes staking the knee.

That his view and he is entitled to it, but it did not take the murder of George Floyd to highlight anything other than the slaying of black men by police in the US.

I don’t know who would live in such a bubble as to need a murder to highlight discrimination, as the issue of discrimination is well publicised and covered by our laws here in the UK. All the players Mike mentioned at Wigan have had flourishing and famous careers at the club and this would not have happened if the forces of discrimination had been acting against them, as may have been the case with Harry Sunderland and Roy Francis.

Taking the knee is not relevant to anything in the UK, but the race zealots are at work. This was highlighted by Michael Carter, the Chairman of Wakefield, after his team showed respect in an alternative manner before a match last season, choosing to link arms instead.

That was not good enough for the bully boys, however, and Mr Carter stated that: “Some people have an agenda with racism and want to use that to cause havoc.”

Mr Carter got that spot on.

I took the opportunity to review Jason Robinson’s interview with Sky TV at Mr Worthington’s prompting.

During his playing career I watched Jason Robinson in about 70 per cent of his matches for Wigan, home and away, starting before, and with, his first-team debut against Hull in 1992, until his final appearance for Wigan at the 2000 Grand Final.

The reference in the interview to thousands of fans screaming racial abuse is something that I did not encounter. I can only assume that this must have been an occasion when I was not present, or some selective editing of the interview was at work.

Whichever it is, the impression given is manifestly false. It is an insult to the game and implies that Rugby League grounds have been bear pits of racism.

Jason did opine that: “A lot of people say we have a long way to go, but we’ve also come a long way.”

That’s the key. Civilisation evolves, attitudes change, prejudices are broken down and Rugby League in the sporting field has been a leader, not a follower.

If proof is needed of the place of black players in the heritage of Rugby League, then I suggest that Mike looks at the list of Rugby League Hall of Fame Inductees, the statue at Wembley, the road names in Hull, the name on the stands at the DW Stadium in Wigan and looks up the name of the first black captain of any sporting team in the UK

I would also suggest that the next time he is in Wigan, Mike takes a look at that large bronze casting at the top of Millgate as it bears a striking resemblance to the black man from Tiger Bay who made it big in the game and is still here.

Bill Anderson, Parbold



I have tried not to get involved in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, and the booing by spectators at players taking the knee. I am in favour of diversity in Rugby League but I think London Skolars’ coach, Jermaine Coleman is out of order with his comments. Fans agree with equality but do not appreciate the continued BLM activity on Sky screens.

Jeff Bunting, Hull



The Oldham v Dewsbury fixture on 27 June was a temptation, as I had never seen either club live.

I invested £17 in a ticket, bought with my pension, in anticipation of a happy afternoon. I travelled across Manchester by public transport to the ground Oldham are using in Stalybridge.

After this trek, I needed a drink and a pie, at the very least.

But at this Betfred Championship venue, there were no refreshment facilities at all – I couldn’t buy a drink or a snack, not even a glass of water.

The best toilet facilities were a brace of Portaloos; those in the ground proper were both primitive and, by half-time, disgusting. Apart from the game itself, I was provided with a cramped seat, although I did enjoy the game (but little else). For £17, I felt robbed.

Is this the state of sport in the UK? The week before I watched a game at my local amateur cricket club. I had a bench to myself with ample legroom. They served drinks, snacks and had clean toilets. An ice-cream van visited the ground more than once. And entrance was free.

So Championship Rugby League has lost me as a paying spectator. Their facilities are from the dark ages and I shall not be rushing to see another game. They should be grateful to the fans who regularly attend their games and get short-changed on even the simplest of facilities.

The summer game for me remains cricket.

Dr Stephen K. Donovan, Swinton



We can only applaud Mirror Group Newspapers for their continued support of Rugby League, but I don’t think Gareth Walker (League Express, 28 June) is correct when he cites unfavourable kick-off times as a factor in other news groups cutting back on Rugby League coverage in their titles.

As far as football is concerned, we all once knew when the match kicked off: 3 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. But Sky Sports changed all that, and matches now start when it suits Sky, because they hold the purse strings.

If Friday night’s international Rugby League had been a football match, that is what would have happened, and the publishers would have requested an extension to the truncated time of going to print.

Gareth Walker said that the Saturday editions go to print at 10 p.m. so in this instance, the paper would need to go to print at 11 p.m. or at whatever time the publisher needed to give a comprehensive report on the match because they believe that without that report they will lose sales.

An 8.15 p.m. kick-off may be a logistical nightmare, but if the publishers can do it for football, why not for Rugby League? Sadly, the simple fact is that publishers do not feel that, by omitting Rugby League match reports, they will lose sales, so they have no incentive to delay publication.

Michael Brown, Stokesley