Patience. They say it’s a virtue.
But even those who obtain it are struggling to bear the drawn-out saga that is rugby league’s promotion and relegation debate.
Four months on from the season’s suspension and 26 days away from its restart, Super League clubs still don’t know if they face the threat of relegation at the end of the season.
Perhaps even more pressing than that, 25 professional clubs are still in the dark about the future of their season.
On Monday, the RFL decided to delay a decision on the status of Championship and League 1 again, as well as that on promotion and relegation. They have deferred a decision until July 23rd at the latest.
It’s only added to a great sense of frustration among a sporting community that desperately wants clarity during the most uncertain of times.
But what’s irked people is that the RFL’s decision is seemingly just delaying the inevitable.
It’s apparent to everyone the Super League season is compromised. The length of the season has been reduced, some clubs will be able to play games at home, others will not and in Toronto’s case, they won’t play a single game at home all season.
The matter of promotion is different but even the most optimistic person, the most vocal defenders for bringing back the Championship and League 1 are starting to concede defeat.
The RFL are delaying a decision to give as much time as possible for circumstances to change. If testing costs drop and the prospect of mass gatherings improve it could help the competitions return.
But the reality is there are too many clubs adamant they don’t want to come back. The costs, the loss of revenue playing behind closed doors, their inability to find facilities to train in, the impracticality of testing part-time players. Too many clubs don’t believe they can come back this year and, let’s be honest, some of them simply do not want to. That’s not going to change in the next fortnight and everyone knows it.
The RFL has been accused by clubs keen to return of implementing delay tactics to prevent them from coming back.
That has perhaps pressured them into delaying the call again.
If they were to call off promotion and relegation now before deciding on the future of Championship and League 1, it would reinforce that rhetoric. Additionally, by giving as much time as possible for the situation to improve, they can’t then be accused of conceding defeat too early.
The problem is, according to Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell, they still haven’t told clubs what constitutes a meaningful season that would make promotion and relegation feasible. If they can’t do that now, why should anyone believe that will change in the next two weeks?
Their case hasn’t been helped by the fact many clubs, both publicly and via a recent survey sent out, have asked for a decision to be made now. Clubs have argued for months and gone round in circles. They aren’t going to agree. They want, they need, someone to step up and make a call. The RFL have yet to do that and reinforces a belief they aren’t willing to make decisions that need to be made.
To an extent, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
But, though whatever decision they make will inevitably anger someone, not making one at all winds up everyone.
But with Super League’s return growing ever nearer attention should be back to on-field action rather than off-field drama.
Sadly, the uncertainty surrounding promotion and relegation won’t allow that to happen, and the damage of that shouldn’t be underestimated.