Rugby League supporters optimistic for 2014

Rugby League supporters are in an optimistic mood going into 2014, according to the League Express Readers’ Poll, despite the financial problems currently being experienced at some Super League and Championship clubs.

Almost 51 per cent of the 620 respondents in the survey, which was run in the 16 December issue of League Express, claimed to be more confident in the future of Rugby League, compared to how they felt at the beginning of 2014, while only 18 per cent felt less confident and 31 per cent felt equally confident as a year ago.

“The success of the World Cup has clearly had an effect on our readers’ confidence about the future of the game,” said League Express editor Martyn Sadler.

“Despite the problems that still exist in the game, the World Cup showed us the potential that Rugby League undoubtedly has to make further progress and generate new supporters.”

The results were mixed for the RFL, however, with readers asked to comment on what sort of job the RFL is doing in running the game, while also being asked about specific RFL policy issues.

Only 32 per cent regard the RFL as doing an excellent or good job, while almost 37 per cent believe the RFL’s performance is unsatisfactory or inadequate, with the remaining 31 per cent agreeing that the RFL’s performance is satisfactory.

And readers have responded to some of the key policy issues that the RFL is currently dealing with.

With the licensing system apparently ready to be dispensed with, almost 52 per cent of readers continue to back it, although, in an apparent contradiction, 84 per cent agree with bringing back promotion and relegation for Super League.

Almost 73 per cent of readers support the idea of a play-off system to determine the Champions, although more than 70 per cent say they do not support the ClubCall system that allows a club to select its opponent in the qualifying semi-final.

The RFL’s proposal to reorganise the league competition into two leagues of 12, splitting into three leagues of eight late in the season, received a big thumbs-down from readers, with almost 66 per cent of respondents saying they didn’t support it.

And readers were also unenthusiastic about the news that there will be regular Super League games on Thursday nights.

When asked when they prefer to watch Rugby League, more than 46 per cent replied Sunday afternoons, with Friday evenings the next most popular option, with more than 25 per cent of the vote.

But fewer than 2 per cent of respondents opted for Thursday evenings and Monday evenings as their preferred time to attend games. And, given a choice of the four seasons, almost 68 per cent of respondents nominated summertime as their favourite season for watching Rugby League, with fewer than 6 per cent of readers saying that they prefer to watch the game in winter.

“The debate over summer and winter seems to be over, to judge by these responses, and that suggests that it is possible to make radical changes that eventually gain the acceptance of supporters,” said Sadler.

“Attitudes to licensing also reflect an acceptance many supporters, who can see a clear rationale in the process, while still yearning for a viable system of promotion and relegation. The RFL needs to find a way of combining the best elements of licensing with a promotion and relegation system that will avoid the many problems that came with it in the old days.

“The problem for the RFL is that supporters are slow to embrace changes that they see as gimmicky, such as ClubCall or the proposed two-twelves, three-eights structure.