RFL consultant slams opportunity missed in Manchester by RFL decision

A former consultant to the RFL has criticised the governing body for its decision not to offer a place in League 1, to the fledgling Manchester Rangers club, a proposal recently knocked back by the RFL (as reported by League Express in the 11th February edition).

While making a plea for more effective leadership from the governing body, Ken Jones (currently involved with Bradford Bulls) criticised the RFL’s decision to ignore the due-diligence report he did for them on the Manchester club, and his recommendation that it be admitted to the RFL’s semi-professional ranks.  Ironically, the Rangers were supported by the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham (pictured centre above) among others.

Here is the text in full of Mr Jones’ letter to the Editor, published in this week’s League Express (Monday, 18th February).

Following on from your excellent article regarding Manchester Rangers and their decision to halt attempts to launch a professional cub in Manchester (League Express, February 11), I am writing as someone who worked with the board at Rangers, on behalf of the RFL, when I conducted a detailed due diligence on the club, their off-field business and their highly professional group on the board.
I am, in equal measures, disappointed, frustrated and annoyed at such a strategic opportunity missed.
Firstly. let us consider the board, all of whom are experts in their own fields and have the financial acumen and resources to make the club successful.
Their approach was respectful, sustainable and had all the key elements in place to make a real success of things.
The facilities at the Manchester Regional Arena are excellent and far superior to those of a host of other clubs.
The most important factor, however, was the support they had from Manchester Council, which was superb.
I met with Mayor Andy Burnham in November and he was passionate in his belief in the board and had fully bought into their vision for Rugby League in the city.
  There was also a potential community partnership with a Premier League football club, which will now no longer be realised.
Finally, regarding Manchester Rangers, the RFL should have adopted a similar process to Toronto and Coventry when they were accepted into the competition, as they were allowed to pitch their case to the clubs at a meeting.
Disappointingly, the RFL stood as sole arbitrators and the board took the decision in isolation.
I have spoken to club Chairmen who would have supported the introduction of the club. They should have been given a chance to see what value they could bring. 
For example, it could have been on a three-year licence with key performance indicators (for instance business/player development) to meet. If they did not meet them the license could be revoked.
In my time at the RFL, I was involved first hand in the struggles clubs have on a daily basis and before I go on, I have huge respect for Andy (Swinton), Steve (Rochdale) and Chris (Oldham) for all the dedicated work they put in every day to keep their clubs alive.  
But, and I have had these conversations with them personally, the potential to grow the game in Greater Manchester is very limited and is, in fact, diminishing year on year in real terms.
  The clubs do struggle to survive and, in my view, we need to look strategically at where our game is going and how we can both survive and grow.
We continue to hold onto the misguided view that tradition must be maintained at all costs. If this were the case, the British Army would still be configured along the lines it was at Waterloo.
The reality of life is simply not that straightforward and we are missing a key strategic opportunity in arguably the country’s second city.
What is the answer? To simply blame the RFL is both disingenuous and cowardly. We need game-wide agreement. Too many people are promoting self-interest and are resistant to change to the status quo.
However, the RFL must show some leadership, as for far too long have they hidden behind a policy of ‘that is too difficult, put it in the to-do list’, and show some real desire to take the game into the 21st Century.
Doing nothing is simply not good enough!
Ken Jones, Bradford