IMAGINE if an NRL club suspended the sale of season tickets and the chairman offered up this as the reason: “I’m not going to ask fans to spend their hard earned cash until I can safely say to them we will be going around again for the year.”
That’s what Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell told the Hull Daily Mail on Tuesday.
In the same week that broke Bradford Bulls were sold for Stg150,000 to businessman Omar Khan, another one of our most famous clubs faces an uncertain future.
Yet in the NRL, we’ve had a windfall of A$1.025 billion and players are waiting to hear if there will be a big ‘thankyou’ cheque put in their account over the summer in the lead-up to a greatly increased salary cap in 2013.
The contrast is actually very painful if you care about the game – and I’m not just talking about the likelihood of NRL clubs signing all Britain’s best players..
England and Great Britain were once great white hopes for UK sport in an era when the country won nothing. They got government funding, hosted the Kangaroos and two World Cups, and the optimism was perhaps based on the fact they only needed to beat two serious rivals to be World Champions, a numerically easier task than that faced by national sides in other sports.
But they didn’t win.
Now, a little over a decade later, the rugby union team won a World Cup, there are champions in many other sports and the Olympics have been successfully hosted with a swag of gold medals into the bargain.
Where does that leave our game?
Rugby league gave away its naming rights, its Welsh club went broke, the BBC ditched poorly-attended earlier rounds of the Challenge Cup, Bradford called for public donations to keep their doors open and now the businessmen running Rovers are sick to the back teeth of the red ink that has spread from their jumpers to their books.
Internationally, England recently approached Sandor Earl, a New Zealand Maori representative who wants to play for NSW, to turn out on the wing for them.
Sure, the UK is in deep recession. Sure, rugby league is based in areas that are hit harder by that recession than others.
But should things be this bad? Really?
A dramatic decrease in the number of teams in Super League and a rationalisation of the game nationwide seems essential. Great things are being done in junior development away from the heartlands.
But can anyone give me a plausible argument that he professional game is not in a complete mess?
Perhaps the only way to stop a flood of Englishmen to the NRL, leaving Super League as something akin to the Queensland Cup, is to do what officials in Brisbane, Newcastle, Townsville, Wollongong, Canberra and the rest have done over the past 40 years when faced with the same situation.
They entered a team in the NRL (or its predecessor). It’s a long way to Leeds. But it’s a long way from Dunedin to Pretoria too; the rahrahs manage it.
And, as I wrote previously in Discord, the same solution might work in reverse.
If the West Coast Pirates, Brisbane Bombers, Central Coast Bears and Port Moresby Vipers are as cashed up as they say they are, maybe they should be applying to join Super League….
Right now, Red Hall needs all the help it can get.
AN internet-only column like this is probably the best place to address the phenomenon which has apparently been dubbed “cyber trolling”.