Talking Rugby League: English clubs angry as France benefits from wave of travelling fans

IT was hard not to enjoy the spectacle of Leigh supporters having a great time at the Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday.

There were around 1,800 of them, the vast majority wearing club-themed gear, and they made plenty of noise throughout the game.

What their presence and dress sense demonstrated is that the rebranding of the Leigh club to become the Leopards has been a great success since it was introduced by club owner Derek Beaumont.

Plenty of pundits were dismissive of the change at the time but, as the saying goes, they are not laughing now.

As you’ll see from the article on page 8 of this issue by my colleague Steve Brady, the Dragons are deriving great benefit from the large number of English fans who head for Perpignan for Super League matches, particularly at the height of the summer.

But from what I hear, that could come back to bite the Dragons, and to a lesser extent Toulouse Olympique.

Apparently the British clubs are growing angry at the way in which the money from Super League all seems to flow one way as far as the French clubs are concerned.

Not only do the Dragons get a share of the broadcasting income, but they also get the financial benefit of being a popular destination, while very few French supporters make the journey to England for league games.

And because English fans dig deep into their pockets to go to Perpignan, the theory is that they don’t dig deep to attend Magic Weekend or the Challenge Cup Final.

I suspect that there are several Super League clubs, if left to their own devices, that would like nothing more than to throw the French clubs out of Super League and the Championship.

If they did that, however, it would be a great example of the clubs cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Unfortunately the people who run our sport have never managed to work out how to extract the maximum value for the competition of it having an international profile.

Some of them seem to want a purely localised one.

But it’s hard to imagine Super League without the Dragons and I would like to see Toulouse in Super League next year too, although preferably in a league of 14 clubs.

It looks to me as though Catalans will be deprived of their share of the broadcasting income, however.

Unfortunately, the income generated Super League has roughly halved in the last six years.

It’s hardly surprising, I suppose, that the clubs should be thinking of some desperate remedies to mitigate that decline.

But there has to be a better way than taking it out on the French clubs.

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,435 (June 17, 2024)

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