Talking Rugby League: Will IMG’s proposals improve the sport?

I would like to think that IMG know what they are doing in setting out their proposals for the future of the Super League, the Championship and League One last week.

I must admit that I was slightly underwhelmed by what was proposed.

It had echoes of licensing although IMG would claim that it is far more flexible than licensing was, which tied clubs in to competitions for three years, with no opportunity to move between Super League and the Championship.

The proposed system of Category A, B and C clubs does allow for movement between competitions on an annual basis, although clubs in Category A will be protected from relegation from Super League, if it is still called that.

I assume that the RFL, in discussion with IMG, will establish the criteria that will sort clubs into the various categories and it remains to be seen how they will do that.

I can certainly envisage plenty of clubs wanting to appeal against being classified as Category B when they feel they should be Category A, or Category C when they would like to be in Category B.

And in so far as I can understand what IMG are proposing, it looks as though they are saying that within those categories, they will rank the clubs.

If true, that suggests that clubs won’t be promoted based on their league position but on the basis of how highly they are ranked.

I think that would be a serious error. It will mean that the league table in the Championship wouldn’t matter and it would destroy the integrity of the competition.

I seriously hope that it doesn’t turn out like that.

Shaun Wane’s reduced options

In March this year, England coach Shaun Wane announced a 30-player train-on squad heading towards the World Cup.

Last week he named a 24-player squad for the tournament.

Only eleven players remained from the original 30 he named.

There are seven players injured from that original squad: Lewis Dodd, Niall Evalds, Liam Farrell, Jonny Lomax, Reece Lyne, Harry Newman and Alex Walmsley

Eleven players who were named in the squad are not selected in the 24-man squad: Daryl Clark, Ben Currie, Tom Davies, Zak Hardaker, Kruise Leeming, Paul McShane, Liam Marshall, Mark Percival

Stefan Ratchford, Dan Sarginson and Jake Wardle.

One player pulled out of the squad of his own accord: Jermaine McGillvary.

Seven Super League players have now been selected who weren’t in the original squad: Andy Ackers, Joe Batchelor, Chris Hill, Michael McIlorum, Mike McMeeken, Marc Sneyd and Kallum Watkins.

And six players have been selected who are based in the NRL: Tom Burgess, Herbie Farnworth, Victor Radley, Luke Thompson, Elliott Whitehead and Dominic Young.

Is there enough talent there to win the World Cup and especially to get England off to a dream start by beating Samoa at St James’ Park in the opening game of the tournament?

It’s a close call, but we can all keep our fingers crossed.

The BBC’s coverage of the World Cup

Last week the BBC revealed its programming schedule for all three World Cups.

For the Men’s World Cup there will be five matches on BBC ONE, 13 matches on BBC TWO, six matches on BBC THREE and seven matches on BBC iPlayer.

The Women’s World Cup will have one match on BBC ONE, four matches on BBC TWO and nine matches on BBC iPlayer.

The Wheelchair World Cup will have nine matches on BBC TWO and six matches on iPlayer.

It promises to be a feast of Rugby League.

What was Ralph thinking?

What on earth made RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer crack such an inappropriate and demeaning joke at last week’s Championship awards night?

Giving a speech to the audience from the Championship and League 1 clubs, he said of the World Cup: “Fiji have already arrived. We don’t think anybody has been arrested yet, do we?”

It’s hard to imagine that he could have said anything dumber. He has since apologised for his comment to the Fijians. But surely, he should have realised that he was speaking in a public forum and that his words would be recorded for all time.

In the modern world, a notable career can be demolished by a foolish choice of words, as we have seen in many other contexts.

Ralph has spent much of his time since becoming the RFL chief executive in 2018 promoting inclusivity in Rugby League in all its various forms. And I have no reason to believe that he is in any sense a hypocrite in doing that.

So why should he damage all that hard work by making such a crass comment?

As you will see, the RFL will now investigate and decide what action to take against him, if any.

Ralph will be leaving the RFL at the end of the year.

It would be a great shame if his legacy were to be defined by one moment of foolishness.

RFL referee on Question of Sport

Congratulations to James Child on his appearance on the BBC TV show ‘A Question of Sport’ on Friday night, which was a special edition paying tribute to the LBGT community.

He came across extremely well and was a fine representative for our sport.

“I was genuinely honoured to be a part of it because it’s the longest-running sports quiz show in the world. I’d like to think I’ve played my part in raising the profile of Rugby League and LGBT sports people,” he said afterwards.

Leeds to host the Kiwis and say goodbye

We’ll get a chance to see how good the Kiwis are when they play Leeds Rhinos at Headingley in a pre-World Cup game on Saturday night.

The Kiwis will give a run to the great Thomas Leuluai, who will be signing off as a Rugby League player.

The Rhinos will say goodbye to six players who have graced the club in recent years, including Adam Cuthbertson, Liam Sutcliffe, Tom Briscoe, Muizz Mustapha, Bodene Thompson and Brad Dwyer.

The game kicks off at 6.00pm and it should be a terrific event.

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