I haven’t always seen eye to eye with Adam Pearson (pictured).
But I have to say I totally agree with the owner of my old club Hull when it comes to his recent comments on the state the game is in and what the future might hold.
“The sport is at the most difficult point I have ever known it,” he said.
When a man with so much experience of the finances of football as well as Rugby League puts his head above the parapet and talks openly and with honesty of his struggle in keeping afloat one of our biggest clubs and warns that our sport could wither and end up being totally part-time once again, people should listen.
And they should also heed the words of Huddersfield’s international winger Jermaine McGillvary, who recently said: “I’ve been playing for twelve or 13 years now, and the sport hasn’t progressed since I came through, I’ll be honest.
“If anything, it’s actually declined a little bit with the players and how it’s run. I think it could be managed a lot better.”
When I say people should listen, I mean everyone with an involvement or interest in Rugby League – including those talking about it at a national level and those running it.
The pandemic has obviously had a huge impact on all facets of life.
Everyone is trying to find a way through the turmoil and out the other side, and Rugby League is no different.
But perhaps our game is in even more trouble than the rest because it wasn’t in the greatest of states before Covid came along.
Conflict over how the sport should be governed led in 2018 to Super League’s split from the RFL, backed by the likes of Adam Pearson, his then-Hull KR counterpart Neil Hudgell, St Helens’ Eamon McManus and Wigan’s Ian Lenagan.
But now, after chief executive Robert Elstone came along and went away, a very costly delve into the possibility of bringing private equity to the game – something I noted Adam Pearson still thinks is the way forward – and a renegotiated TV deal which will bring in substantially less than the one which went before, moves are underway to ‘realign’ Super League and the RFL.
That comes against the background of the recent bickering by top-flight clubs over the release of players for an important international ahead of a World Cup which, whether it takes place this year or next, will in theory raise the profile of the game and promote it to a wider audience, which was surely one of the aims of the Super League breakaway.
Those who backed it would no doubt argue differently, but many see that breakaway, which was also meant to boost broadcast revenues and sponsorship deals, as an expensive failure which the game could ill afford.
Listen to such as Jamie Peacock, Brian Noble, Jon Wilkin and Jon Wells on TV, and you might think Rugby League is a tip-top product and everything in the garden is rosy.
But Adam Pearson’s comments were deeply worrying, and will hopefully persuade more high-profile figures to admit what a mess Rugby League is in.
Because clubs are still around and most matches are being played, it’s easy to downplay the state of the sport’s finances, and it could be that the real impact of the pandemic on those finances is felt further down the line.
The recent spate of Covid-enforced postponements, and in the case of Castleford versus St Helens, a cancellation because the Tigers couldn’t raise a team, shows that we are still a long way from it being business as usual.
And of course, is business as usual enough to keep top-level Rugby League full-time in the long term? Not from where I’m standing, and from conversations I’ve had, there are plenty who feel the same way.
There are some huge decisions to be made, not least over the way the game is governed and financed, and I think we should follow the Australian model of having a think tank of people who have experience and knowledge of the administration and financing of sport but not a direct involvement with a club.
Rugby League has been very good to me, giving me experiences I will always treasure, taking me around the world, and helping me make friends all the way from Barrow to Brisbane.
But I’m sad and sorry to say I’m falling out of love with the game, mainly due to the way is being run from top to bottom.
We desperately need to take a new direction, otherwise we really are on a road to nowhere.
Mamo’s big week
What a week for Jake Mamo!
He scored a cracking hat-trick as Warrington demolished Wigan 40-14 in a match which will surely have set the alarm bells ringing at the DW Stadium, then announced he had agreed a move to Castleford next season.
I liked Jake when he was at Huddersfield, and he has been a popular player at Warrington.
He’s both entertaining and adventurous, a bit of a maverick, and I smile to myself when I see him try to work those interceptions, because back in the day, I liked to employ the same kind of technique.
It seems a little surprising that Daryl Powell doesn’t want him for next season, but of course he has Peter Mata’utia following him from Castleford. The Tigers have done a good bit of business in securing Jake as a replacement.
Lee Radford seems delighted at the prospect of working with him, and the Castleford fans will like a back who will help them play the open, fluent style with which they have long been associated and which Lee will be expected to maintain.
The announcement of the signing has also helped deflect some of the attention from the worrying cancellation of the game against St Helens because Castleford were unable to raise a side.
Even allowing for injuries and Covid issues, that’s not something you want to be seeing. Such a situation would have been unthinkable thirty years ago, another factor which shows how the sport has gone backwards, certainly in terms of the numbers participating.
It’s a busy spell for Super League fixtures. The first of successive meetings between Leeds and Catalans is at Headingley on Friday, and I believe the French side, with their big pack, will roll the Rhinos over by 13, while down the road at Wakefield, I think St Helens will win by 18.
Both Humberside teams are at home on Sunday, and both sets of fans could be smiling by tea-time, because I think Leigh will be defeated by 46 at Hull while Hull KR will get the better of Tony Smith’s former side Warrington by seven.
I’m going Castleford by 16 at home to Salford and Wigan by 18 at home to Huddersfield.
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