Mailbag taster – League Express Monday 5th October

I was amazed to read that in order to help the Board make a decision on Toronto, an “objective reassessment” will be made of the value and viability of growth for Rugby League in the North American market.
Does that mean the Toronto Wolfpack, Ottawa and New York were admitted without an independent evaluation? Does it mean that the former owner of Toronto Wolfpack has been allowed to spend a vast personal fortune, without the RFL and Super League boards having serious backup plans in case things go wrong at any stage?
Does it mean no evaluation of future TV contracts for the North American market have been investigated? The strongly suggested answer to those questions is no.
On 24th September 2020, the Times newspaper reported that Rob Howley, the famous Wales Rugby Union player and coach, had been appointed a backroom member of the Canada Rugby Union team and consultant to the Toronto Arrows. He is to spend twenty weeks a year with the national team and ten weeks a year advising Toronto Arrows, one of the twelve Rugby Union teams that make up Major League Rugby in North America.
Lee Radford has already joined Rugby Union in the USA. You can see the future so clearly.
Toronto Wolfpack have had the media’s full attention since 2017, with their home attendances larger than all but Wigan, St Helens, Hull, Leeds, Warrington and perhaps Catalans here. Their matchday experience, as shown on TV, was amazing, maybe the best since Bradford in their great days, twenty years ago.
So what happens next?
1) Toronto Wolfpack’s application to re-join Super League is rejected, as the Super League board does not have a future vision for the game, nor is there any backup plan for owners pulling out or adverse events like Covid 19.
2) Rob Howley arrives in Toronto; there is a flood of media action to convince the Toronto public that the Wolfpack is dead but they can support the Toronto Arrows instead.
3) Rugby Union is the future, never mind the long delays for set scrums, rolling mauls, lineouts and wingers who see the ball only a few times each match.
4) Fans switch to the Arrows because Rugby League is not viable in Canada.
5) Ottawa and New York owners decide the game has no future in North America and pull out because the Super League board does not have a commercial or financial plan for the future of the game.
No problem then. At least the game can concentrate on its M62 heartland in England and the corridor between Perpignan and Toulouse in France.
No problem – Sky TV loves to support small regional sports with no plans for the future, not even for London.
I have supported Rugby League in London since the first match against Wigan in 1980 and have yet to see any plan to make the game great there.
The only great days in London were when Richard Branson was the owner. David Hughes has invested a personal fortune to keep the club alive, but with no real help to build another `Melbourne Storm’ outside ‘the heartlands’.
Victor Crewes, Richmond upon Thames

“Rugby League never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” said sports historian and author Professor Tony Collins, interviewed by Dave Woods for a recent BBC Rugby League podcast.
With over 65 years as a Saints supporter, I think I know my Rugby League history, but I was amazed to hear some of the examples mentioned, of opportunities to expand and market the game over the past 125 years.
It’s beyond the scope of this letter to give many examples; suffice to say that in the early days of the Northern Union there were golden opportunities for Welsh clubs, and even Leicester to switch codes.
To quote Professor Collins, the Rugby Football Union ‘turned a blind eye to payments’ by their clubs. Hypocrisy springs to mind.
In the 1940s, a Canadian (RU) club in Nova Scotia wrote to the RFL requesting rule-books and advice as they wanted to switch codes, but nothing was done to help. Toronto now presents the sport with another opportunity; one not to be missed or Rugby Union will move in. In fact, a ‘Major League Rugby’ (Union) competition has already started in the USA and Canada.
The professor predicts that many sports in the future will transcend international boundaries.
New York is the world’s most marketable city. Its logo can be seen all around the world on baseball caps, fashion and other sportswear. A Rugby League team could tap into this market easily. There is no Rugby League club in England, with the possible exception of London, which could come anywhere close to matching this global footprint.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: ‘The further one looks back in history, the further one can see into the future’. Rugby League has 125 years to look back on. Let’s hope our game has learned from missed opportunities. Toronto may have had internal problems, but they cannot be blamed for the coronavirus pandemic’s knock-on consequences. They have sent many a global organisation to the wall.
I cannot understand why so momentous a decision as Toronto’s inclusion should be left in the hands of clubs with a vested interest. Some with vision will put the future of the game ahead of their own club, but others will not wish to accept a (slightly) smaller slice of the cake.
If there is a question of Christmas being cancelled this year, I wonder if turkeys will be given a vote.
John Meadows, Los Alcazares, Spain

I was brought up reading Eric Thompson and Jack Winstanley on Rugby League, and I was always thrilled by their way with words.
Eric labelled Vince Karalius ‘Wild Bull of the Pampas’. I could re-live the drama, poetry and passion of a brutal but beautiful game in those days.
So imagine my delight at reading Callum Walker likening Wakefield’s spirited and skilful tilt at Wigan to the 7,000 Spartans going down fighting at Thermopylae, against a hundred to a hundred and fifty thousand strong Persian army.
I also enjoyed Martyn Sadler’s balanced reading of the game (who would have thought he had a soft spot for Trinity?) and I agree with him about the video referee.
Well done by them both. Always a good read.
Martin King, Wigan

Do we have to learn a different language for listening to Sky Sports commentary, in particular from Barrie McDermott?
Rugby League is played on a pitch, not a field. That’s where farmers graze their cattle or grow crops. It’s not a paddock; that’s where horses are kept. It’s not a park; that’s where people go to walk or children to play. It’s not an island; I’ve never seen a pitch surrounded by water.
When a team kicks to touch they improve their position, they don’t buy land, that’s what builders and property developers do. They don’t buy or gain territory, that’s what governments do.
In this world we have standardisation. There are sixty seconds in a minute, so a player doesn’t play ‘big minutes’ or ‘long minutes’. A player can play more minutes, but they are all the same length.
I’m writing this in case new viewers switch on and need a translation.
David Ramsden, Bournemouth