NCL fixtures spark excitement, but social media less so

It was quite exciting to receive, last weekend, draft fixtures for the 2021 National Conference League season.

In line with a request by the NCL’s management we did not publish them in this week’s League Express, as clubs have until today (9th April) to submit observations and requests, so there could well be significant changes) but we deid publish details of the seven Regional Leagues which are also now available here on

I reckon the Conference bosses have done a very good job in all the circumstances, even if not all clubs will be entirely pleased. Some may feel they should be in a different regional league, and others may worry about having to face opposition that, twelve months ago at any rate, was significantly superior.

But it has to be recognised that the NCL’s Management was presented with a challenging situation. And the format, which will climax in a four-match Grand Finals day on a date and at a venue to be announced, is to my mind stimulating and which certainly whets the appetite for the new campaign, which is set to start on the penultimate Saturday of May.

Most clubs can look forward to plenty of ‘derby’ fixtures and, hopefully (and if allowed), big crowds. And NCL chairman Trevor Hunt made a fair point when he said that the absence of promotion and relegation this year will give coaches the chance to field more fringe or young players than they might otherwise have done, which has to be a good thing.

I’ve often written in recent years that the NCL, outside the top flight anyway, could perhaps benefit from being regionalised, with the impact of travel on the environment – and the costs involved – being pertinent factors. I wonder whether the NCL’s 2021 format, which has been arrived at in a crisis, could turn out to be a template for the future.

On a less agreeable issue I’ve got to confess that I’m not much of a user of social media (or, as I usually call it, anti-social media).

I stood back from it, other than for pressing work purposes, fairly quickly, mainly for practical reasons. Readers may be surprised at how many hours (enjoyable hours, admittedly) can be spent during the week dealing with amateur news, and time is often at a premium. So I regularly felt frustrated when, after spending what felt like five minutes or so opening a Facebook posting, I’d learn that the sender was celebrating having enjoyed a sandwich. I had to empathise with the soccer manager Tony Pulis who said that he was a non-user because it was “just a load of Herberts telling other Herberts what they’d had for tea.”

More importantly, I share the concerns of many over the well-documented political and social negatives of several social media platforms. Social media has its uses and benefits, I’m sure – as my family keeps reminding me – but on the whole I wish it had never been invented.

There was a case in point last week when the Rugby Football League found it necessary to remind clubs of the dangers of what they (or more likely some of their players) post on social media as we progress through the ‘return to action’ plan. The RFL is acutely aware that although the Government has set out a roadmap for the resumption of grassroots sport, all sports are doubtless being monitored, and that postings of team and group photos could potentially scupper everyone’s hopes. I find it astonishing that the RFL should have to remind anyone (even in fairly gentle fashion) of that. But, then, doesn’t that sum up how “anti-social” social media can be? And this is an instance in which the posters are not trying to bully anyone else.

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