MARTYN SADLER, the editor of League Express, wonders whether Rugby League’s current administrators will do justice to the achievements of some of those who went before them.
It’s interesting to compare the current Super League administration with the Rugby Football League’s administration in the 1920s, in particular on the subject of the expansion of the game.
Back in 1928, the Great Britain Lions toured Australia and New Zealand, but then travelled to Canada from New Zealand to play some missionary games in that country.
I can only imagine how arduous the journey must have been between New Zealand and Canada in those far-off days.
And they must have succeeded, because shortly after their departure a Rugby League competition began in Canada that lasted until the 1950s, when it eventually fizzled out.
By that time the RFL had already decided to take the Challenge Cup Final to Wembley, which it did for the first time the following year, despite there being plenty of naysayers at the time who objected to taking the big game away from some of the established Rugby League stadia in the north of England.
Can you imagine what would have happened in those days if the current Super League clubs had been making those decisions? It’s hard to believe they would have given any credence to such revolutionary ideas.
On Friday the clubs are due to make a pronouncement on the future of the Super League competition.
They may decide that next year Super League will have only eleven teams.
If so, that will almost certainly be the end of the Toronto Wolfpack, and once again we will hand over a significant number of nascent Rugby League fans to the other code, which will move in and no doubt benefit from the Wolfpack’s absence.
It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.
But I’m quite sure that John Wilson, who was its secretary and ran the Rugby Football League in 1928, would have been aghast at the thought that Rugby League would turn its back on the opportunity to stake out a presence in one of the greatest cities in North America, giving us a potential platform for expansion throughout that continent.
I’m sure he would have wondered what sort of people had inherited his mantle.
It’s worth pointing out, for what it’s worth, that the people running the game these days are paid far more than Wilson was.
And it’s worth bearing in mind, as one of our readers points out in this week’s Mailbag, that Sky Sports is now owned by Comcast, which is a North American media company.
As our reader points out from merely scanning the sports content currently on Sky Sports, “Comcast is clearly intent on Sky Sports broadcasting major international sports and in many cases presumably re-broadcasting US sports cheaply as they have already paid the rights there as a US company. Where does a regional UK sport fit in?”
The answer is that it doesn’t seem to fit in very well at all.
On the other hand, if Rugby League can develop one or more North American clubs, at least we might have a chance of making a significant impact.
But if the game crawls back into its regional shell, I’m afraid it won’t have much of a future.
This is an amended version of an article that first appeared in Martyn Sadler’s ‘Talking Rugby League’ column in this week’s issue of League Express. If you would like to take out a subscription to League Express, go go www.totalrl.com/shop