Questions remain in Cornwall

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 8th Nov 2021

It has been another busy week in the lower divisions of Rugby League with not one but two new names set to compete in League 1 in the 2022 season.

Professional Rugby League will be played for the first time in Cornwall, with Eric Perez opting for the town of Penryn instead of Ottawa for his latest attempt at establishing a club.

Expansion has come in many places and many forms over the decades, but very few have had any great degree of success and the widespread pessimism that greeted Cornwall’s launch is largely a reflection of that.

What has not helped is that there are still so many questions about the project that are yet to be answered, and you can judge for yourself in this week’s issue of League Express the answers to many of those provided by the club’s commercial director, Rob Buckland.

In a rare patch of the country that Rugby League has yet to attempt to conquer, Cornwall finds itself in one of Rugby Union’s biggest strongholds, the south-west.

While the Cornish Rebels have made some strides on the amateur scene, this is an area with almost no Rugby League footprint. So where will the support, not to mention the players, come from?

Building attendances will be a long-term project and requires serious thought in how to engage the community and the local media. Likewise finding sponsorship if the club is to be sustainable.

As for players, the club launched with a ‘Cornwall First’ motto. If the plan is to recruit solely from a pool of Rugby League amateurs and Rugby Union converts, it seems close to impossible that they will be competitive in League 1 soon.

If they opt to bolster the squad with experienced League players, how will they be persuaded to join? Cornwall is undoubtedly a scenic part of the country but moving for a part-time contract would be unfeasible and travelling six hours each way for matches and training from the north even more so.

Speaking of travel, other League 1 clubs will understandably be concerned by the implications. With the huge cut in funding for those clubs from 2022, a trip to Penryn will be just another worry, and practically challenging for the part-time players as well.

Ultimately, any expansion project needs to be done with a strategy and a long-term plan for steady growth.

There are few better recent examples of that than in Coventry, where Alan Robinson has done a tremendous job over more than 20 years in building the club that will now be known as the Midlands Hurricanes.

Fresh investment there only shows how they continue to make strong progress, and Cornwall would do well to follow their path.

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.