RFL Chief’s Biggest Challenge

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 13th Sept 2021

RFL Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer has been widely criticised in recent months because of his low public profile when Rugby League has been going through a very difficult period.

Much of the problems he has had to deal with have arisen because of the Covid pandemic, which no one could have anticipated.

And it would be difficult to criticise the RFL’s response to the pandemic.

Every major organisation in the country has had to deal with the problems that the pandemic has thrown at them, and the RFL is no different.

The job of the RFL was to get the game being played again after the lockdown in 2020 and to try to keep it on an even keel.

But in the long term the bigger problem facing the RFL CEO is the declining income profile that the sport is currently being forced to anticipate.

The annual income from Sky Sports will fall next year from its current level of around £40 million per year, to a figure marginally below £25 million per year.

When any organisation faces a cut in its income, it faces difficult decisions on who is going to bear the brunt of those cuts.

Will it try to impose the largest cuts proportionately on the top clubs, or will it cut away at the income of the clubs in the bottom tier?

Will it look for other ways of adjusting to a lower level of income, for example by forcing Super League clubs to cut their expenditure on overseas players, who are very often recruited on salaries of more than £100,000 per year each.

Players recruited from domestic sources generally cost significantly less, with some significant exceptions.

The danger with cutting the income of clubs at the lower tier of the game is that their very existence is threatened, and very often those clubs are the ones in expansion areas that Rugby League has been trying to cultivate, such as Coventry Bears.

Is Rugby League’s progress in the Midlands to be thrown away for want of a relatively modest amount of money?

We hope not, but that illustrates the problems that the RFL currently has to make decisions on.

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