Snap out of the Gloom!

Tim Butcher, the editor of the annual League Express Rugby League Yearbook, hits back at those within and close to Rugby League who continually complain about the state of the game.

What strange days we live in!

Three weeks ago we were told in League Express that Sky was asking for change in the structure of Rugby League, after it apparently expressed its dissatisfaction with the quality of some games it has broadcast this season.

Are you serious? Who at Sky specifically expressed their dissatisfaction? The CEO, one of the presenters? A cameraman (person)?

Or was it a piece of anecdotal gossip supplied by one of the club owners angling for change to suit their own agenda?

Maybe I am being too cynical and Sky have some kind of committee scrutinising every sport to assess its quality. If so, I would gladly apply to sit on it. Rugby League wouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom of the entertainment list.

And Sky do of course have a big say in how the game is portrayed by…Sky!

We’ve had Shane Richardson calling for a major overhaul of British Rugby League and lots of media outlets short of a story giving it air. Hull FC owner Adam Pearson followed last week on the BBC website with another “unless we do something the game is dead” interview.

Why leave it to our enemies? They can just sit back and enjoy.

At least Adam Pearson had the grace to admit he was one of the people running the game responsible for bringing it to such a near-death condition (in the UK). A new ‘concept’ will solve it.

“What The Hundred has done for cricket, its saturation of coverage and the gates and the excitement, we have to find a similar concept in Rugby League, alongside the traditional format otherwise we’re dead,” Pearson said.

‘Saturation of coverage’ is the key. Alas, we know Rugby League will never get that. But the governing body can work hard to improve it.

The leaders of our game just have to do their best. They can start by presenting games in the manner they deserve, identifiable kits, proper pitch markings, better camera angles, and sensible fixturing. And turn down the ref’s mike until he has something interesting to say to the players (seems minor, but two of my former team-mates won’t watch Super League on TV any more because of the constant ‘hold, release’ bombardment from referees). It’s not a complete list.

And club owners who now want to relinquish their power for a unified game? Fill your stadiums!

As for the new ‘concept’. We’ve got Nines, never properly exploited. Having been present at every Carnegie Nines competition, it turned out to be a great way to see some of the youngsters bound for big futures. It wasn’t top notch. But when for some reason Bradford Bulls and Wakefield played each other one year with Super League-quality teams, it was fantastic. Really fantastic!

We don’t need a new format, although five-a-side with the club mascot playing dummy-half should appeal to a younger audience. If only Eddie Waring was still here to commentate.

Doom and gloom has become endemic since the arrival of Covid-19, but it is time to snap out if it now. The game’s leaders, please take note!