League express Mailbag – Monday 8th November

I read with interest the article (and fantastic animations) in last week’s article about referee abuse and how it has always been around in Rugby League.
My initial thought when reading it was to wonder why we appear to normalise the abuse of such crucial members of our sport.
After 126 years of Rugby League, we still hear players, coaches, spectators and club chairmen criticising the very people we need more than most if we are to play our game, blaming them for defeats whilst overlooking mistakes made by players during a game.
An animation of Rob Hicks having snowballs thrown at him trivialises the abuse of referees. This is a man who has given fantastic service to our game, yet has received death threats and frequent abuse. We seem to think it is okay to abuse the referee.
Do players receive public criticism from their coaches or senior club officials after a bad performance at any level? Not usually, so why do we think it okay to publicly criticise referees at all levels? Abuse and criticism at the highest level can feed down to the community game, exposing community referees still learning the game to abuse. So that many leave in their first two years or earlier.
Adults abusing children who are refereeing games surely cannot be right.
Match officials – referees and touch judges – are routinely subjected to abuse, verbal and physical, yet the consequences of officials-abuse is an under-researched area.
If match officials are constantly working in a negative environment, it could hamper the ability of governing bodies to retain and develop officials. Any reduction in the number of officials available can have a knock-on effect, reducing the number of games a sport is able to stage each week.
The consequences can also be far-reaching in terms of mental and physical health. Match officials may be marginalised so their support networks need strengthening. Increased stress resulting from officiating has been associated with poor mental health, diminished match official performance and dropout intentions.
The skills required of Rugby League referees include:
• High accuracy rate for thousands of decisions whilst running over eight kilometres per game.
• Taking on board large amounts of information.
• Reading and understanding the game.
• Managing the game, and maintaining knowledge of the rules.
• Being self-confident and excellent communicators, with a firm manner.
• The ability to build a rapport with athletes whilst exceptionally aware of their own positioning, in order to make accurate decisions and to work as part of a team of officials when required.
• Great concentration, composure and physical fitness, including sprints with heart rates reaching up to 150 beats per minute.
Why don’t we all, as a sport, stop abusing referees and respect how difficult the job is?
We need to start respecting and creating a positive environment for them. They love the Greatest Game just as much as supporters do.
Early next year all fans will get the opportunity to experience exactly what it is like to be a Super League referee, with a Virtual Reality Refereeing opportunity, “Be The Ref” ( https://youtu.be/_PycXcqaXE0 )
The organisation ‘State of Mind’ has been working with the RFL, and Rugby League World Cup, to develop support projects for community referee societies with the aim of changing the culture. Supporting referees and match officials at all levels is crucial to the expansion of this game we love.
Dr Phil Cooper, RMN MBE, Co-founder ‘State of Mind Sport’, Warrington


Who selects the fixtures for Super League each year; is it done by a panel of Rugby League committee members or is it done by a computer?
If you look at St Helens, for instance, for the last four or five years they have played the bottom five, five or six times, so on paper you would expect them to be favourites to win.
If you are working on a percentage basis, St Helens would have a 100% record, whereas teams above them in the top half of the table are all playing each other most of the time.
So St Helens’ percentages through the season put them in a good position for being near the top.
Last season they were awarded a 24-0 win against Wakefield and something similar against Castleford.
That puts them in an unfair position, don’t you think? It also affects their play-off positions.
On another point, Rugby League is the only sport I can think of that does not work within the guidelines of its own rule book.
For example, striking an opposing player in the face should mean an immediate sending off.
Remember the Grand Final? Nothing at all was done about face strikes.
We might as well throw the rule book into the bin.
Gordon Wilson, Newton le-Willows


Well now, surprise of the current century, a League 1 semi-professional club in Cornwall.
My Dad, who died in 1994, was born in Hayle in Cornwall and played for Hayle 2nd XV before the Second World War. When he moved to work in Warrington in 1963, however, he became a firm supporter of Warrington Rugby League, although we also visited (now forgotten) places like Alt Park, Huyton and Station Road, Swinton.
How proud he would have been if he could have known about this development.
Eric Perez is nothing if not a brave man. I suppose that if the club survives – and makes it into the Championship in five to ten years’ time – it will be considered a success.
Having worked sometimes in Hemel Hempstead I can only say that Cornwall has more chance of surviving. I suppose I should take out a season ticket, although I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend any matches next year.
If Rugby League is ever to gain a higher national profile the RFL needs to find a sponsor, to ensure that clubs like Coventry, the two Welsh clubs and Cornwall, have central funding of around £100,000 per year to attract players, train academy players and pay travel costs.
The current financial problems in this sport make development in new areas very difficult.
But meanwhile, a new Rugby League holiday can now include Catalans, Toulouse and Cornwall as part of the package!
Victor Crewes, Richmond


I believe that there are tentative grounds for optimism, as this game is now emerging from a difficult period of Covid 19 restrictions and reduced broadcasting income. Toulouse will bring freshness and new blood to the top tier.
The Championship, in 2022, will have the most intriguing and competitive season in many a year. We have the more traditional small town clubs such as Featherstone and Leigh among the promotion hopefuls. And they will all be challenged by the newly full-time Newcastle Thunder who, together with York City Knights recently moved into a new stadium.
There is also a Cumbrian revival with all three of their sides now in the second tier. I could go on – but that said – I really think the last thing we need at this juncture is, as has been suggested, a change to two divisions of ten teams each, presumably lumping together the other sixteen teams in League One.
The top two tiers will require a huge number of loop fixtures to pad the season out. Which leads me nicely to my point that it is time we banished these loop fixtures. They really do create staleness.
There is a natural tendency for people to consider a season over, once every team has played all the others twice. I can remember when we had the Super 8’s system, how attendances plummeted when teams were facing their rivals for a third time.
For me a thing needs rarity to maintain its thrill.
Wigan v St Helens four or five times a year; two sides exchanging drop-goal attempts several times a season to avoid a draw; games with twelve or thirteen tries are like eating your favourite meal five times a week. They cease to be exciting when repeated too often.
Assuming some change or restructuring could take place, what would I do?
Given the constraints of our numbers I would have a thirteen team Super League, a thirteen team Championship, and ten teams in League One. It would mean discontinuing the Magic Weekend which is, in reality, just a loop fixture for everyone.
Twenty-four fixtures should provide the right balance between the need for club income and the need to reduce demands on players. I also believe that ‘one up one down’ between the top and second tiers, would provide the right balance between stability and maintaining an element of jeopardy.
Interestingly, the Rugby Union Gallagher Premiership now operates with thirteen teams.
Nick Robinson, Beverley


While watching the other code pack down today, it reminded me our scrums are back next season, so here’s two good ideas;
1) Get the centres to scrum down with all the other forwards.
2) Get the referees to put the ball in.
It’ll stop the cheating and give the others more room to run around in. Get the hookers practicing now.
M Leather, Warrington


I am in need of help.
As an avid pin badge collector I have every Rugby League club pin badge except ONE – Toulouse Olympique.
I have contacted the club about a purchase but they only supply within France, so no joy. I have asked the people who make the badges for the grand final. No joy. I tried the `selling’ websites and you guessed – no joy!
Please, if any supporter reading this paper has a spare pin badge for Toulouse Olympique could you please contact me. Thank you for your anticipated help.
P R Hughes, 7, Coed Bach, Flint, Flintshire, CH6 5SW
Tel: 07864 805737


I am trying to obtain items related to the old Blackpool Borough club. Any old scrap books, game worn shirts, ties, match videos, photos – anything relevant.  I do have a couple of contacts who are helping me already, as the aim is to create a website dedicated to the club and hopefully write a club history.
Chris Aylen, Blackpool



In last week’s League Express (1st November), Geoff Howarth claimed that I said that Widnes dominated the 1980s.

I said no such thing; what I said was that Wigan did not dominate the 80s, because in that decade clubs like Wigan and Hull also had great success, and I was replying to Mr Sadler who said that Wigan had dominated the 80s and 90s.
Mr Howarth also said that Wigan played Widnes 17 times in the 80s and had beaten them eleven times. What Mr Howarth failed to say was that in some of those games, Wigan were full-time professionals while Widnes were only semi-professionals, there were some controversial decisions in some of the games that Wigan won, and some of the games could easily have gone Widnes’ way.
Finally I will inform Mr Howarth about the success that Widnes had in the 1970s and 80s; between 1975 and 1992 Widnes won over 30 trophies, winning every trophy on offer including all the major trophies, and they achieved that fantastic record as a semi-professional club, which means they had no advantage over the teams they played.
Widnes were also the first official winners of the World Challenge game when they beat Canberra, and they were the last club side to beat the Australian tourists, something that Wigan never managed to achieve.
Joseph Hammel, Widnes