Talking Rugby League with League Express editor Martyn Sadler
Last week the RFL announced that the two Betfred Challenge Cup Semi-Finals will be played as a triple-header at Leigh Sports Village alongside the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final on 5th June.
And it’s fair to say the announcement wasn’t greeted with universal acclaim by Rugby League fans, who were annoyed mainly by the fact that each of the clubs with teams featuring on that day will only receive 600 tickets for the Leigh Sports Village.
Most fans suggested that a bigger stadium should have been hired and that the two semi-finals should have been played on separate days so that more supporters from each club could have tickets.
The problem is that the RFL’s agreement with the BBC meant that the two semi-finals would become a double header.
And there were no other stadiums available to stage the games, given that they couldn’t be played at the home of one of the competing clubs.
Headingley was unavailable, because it is staging a Yorkshire cricket match on that date.
And, with the football season finishing at the end of May, the majority of football stadia are having urgent maintenance work on their pitches.
So all in all I think we should probably be grateful for the fact that the Leigh Sports Village is actually available.
Will the Indian Covid variant kill the World Cup?
Just when it looks as though the country is getting on top of the coronavirus, along comes another version of it that looks as though it’s trying to put us back to square one.
At the moment it’s difficult to predict whether the so-called Indian variant of Covid will cause further lockdowns in summer and autumn, but it must surely increase the uncertainty associated with the World Cup, which starts in late October.
Even without the Indian variant, the players who would come to the World Cup from Australia and New Zealand will have to quarantine for two weeks after the tournament when they return to their own countries.
If that situation is still in place by the time of the World Cup, there will inevitably be considerable reluctance on the part of some players to take part in the tournament.
World Cup CEO Jon Dutton has said he’ll make a call on whether the tournament will go ahead in June.
I don’t envy him. At the moment he probably has the most difficult job in Rugby League.
Recently I took part in a Zoom conference organised by the Bramley Buffaloes club and the James Burke Foundation to discuss mental health and various issues associated with it.
James Burke was a young man who took his own life in 2017. He was a law student at Leeds University and a fine Rugby League player who would have been a contender to play for Jamaica in this year’s World Cup.
His mum Sharon was determined to do something to honour the memory of her son and she set up a charitable foundation in his name to help others who are affected by similar tragedies.
During the conference I was very impressed to hear the approach of the Bramley Buffaloes to supporting the mental health of their players.
They seem to me to be setting out a template that other clubs should take note of and perhaps emulate.
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