DISCORD 2013: Edition Five

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

THE parochialism of rugby league fans is admirable. But when a report says Super League clubs owe Stg 68.5 million and people start blaming the journalist, something is amiss.

This is the British game’s big week. Super League kicks off on Friday with Leeds playing Hull and (back from the dead) Salford hosting Wigan, while the NRL pre-season starts.

The BBC Inside Out programme, quite reasonably and thankfully, decided to preview the season in a serious way by getting the balance sheets of as many clubs as possible (11 from 14), adding up the debt and speaking to a sports finance expert about the state of the game.

“Using a term like ‘Rugby League is staring at the financial abyss’ is not too harsh a thing to say,” said Sheffield Hallam University’s Rob Wilson.

Yet some fans say the report, by George Riley, should never have been done and it is unfair on rugby league as rugby union and soccer have similar – or worse – challenges.

Let’s get this straight. A player might think it is in the interests of rugby league for his team to lose. Does he throw the game? No. A referee might believe an underdog victory would be good for the sport. Does he fix the contest? No.

An administrator might think the comp would be better off without his struggling club. Does he let them fold? No.

Why are journalists the only people in rugby league who are supposed to not do their jobs in the interests of the game?

If the journalist doesn’t do his job, incompetence and corruption get a leg-up. The best way we can show our love of the game is not by cheer-leading but by playing our part with determination and integrity.

Rugby league might look bad in the short term as a result of certain stories we write. But the long-term consequences of going easy on everybody and covering things up are far more dire.

Good story, George.

Now, it would be a new low for me to be scooped over something that appeared on my own facebook page so here’s what South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson posted there regarding the BBC report:

o “The Rugby League financial situation has not really changed d for at least the last 10 years. Robust – no but like all sports it struggles financially.in many ways it is certainly more robust than Rugby. The reality is though there are too many clubs in Super League to support either the financial model nor the players supply.”

And this:

“Many of the clubs are run far better than their Oz counterparts whose poor trading is hidden by declining Pokie facades.

So, some British clubs are run better than NRL clubs. Interesting stuff.

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IF you’re in Sydney and looking for something to do on Saturday, don’t forget the international nines at Cabramatta Leagues Club ground.

Would you believe the Philippines have entered three teams? PNG, Cook Islands, Fiji, Italy, Greece, Tonga, Niue, Japan, Greece, Portugal and American Samoa will all be represented.

Gates open at 8.30am and it goes all day.

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THANKS for all the comments on last week’s column, in which the main topic was the All Stars game. I proposed having the Pacific All Stars involved every second year.

read on

2 Comments

  1. Dear Steve
    Which football clubs actually make any money at all? That would be quite rare .
    The initial a league comp in oz only had 8 teams and it was the best competition ever . Maybe he super league needs to do something similar .. But which 8 teams ? Leeds Wigan Warrington St. Helens Huddersfield Bradford Salford and hull ? What do u think Steve ?

  2. The problem is Steve that none of you journos appear to understand anything about finances. It’s not about shooting the messenger it’s more that the messenger didn’t know what he was talking about. The idiot from Sheffield came up with his “sensational” headline debt figure but to anyone who can read accounts that is completely irrelevant. For example, it includes £14m of liabilities in the St Helens accounts which are effectively funds to help build a £20m+ stadium – monies introduced by the owners to fund huge investment in the club’s infrastructure. Then there are Huddersfield and London who are totally reliant on their rich backers; combined, they owe £17m+ to Davy and Hughes/Leneghan – but they aren’t debts which are going to be called in – ever. The owners are content to pump cash in as they try to buy the dream.

    If George Riley had properly addressed the over-reliance of some clubs on their backers or on the challenges of the, now, two SL clubs who both don’t make money and don’t have a rich owner then it may have been worthwhile or revealing. Instead he didn’t do enough research to understand what any of it meant; it was just financially illiterate. Debt is only a problem if it can’t be serviced or is going to be called in – and that isn’t the case for the vast majority of this headline figure.

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