TRAVELS: XII

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

NO doubt some of you will not want me to write about the proposed restructuring of Super League, just because I’m Australian.

If that’s you, I kindly invite you to skip to the second and third items of this column which hopefully you will find informative and/or entertaining.

To those of you who are still here … well, where do we start? It seems to me there are two extremes when it comes to competition structures.

One extreme is the American system of big city clubs, drafts, salary caps and definitely no promotion and relegation. It’s a form of socialism, I guess

The other is anyone who can raise enough money to put a team on the park enters the lower leagues and works their way up. No salary cap, no draft. It’s complete capitalism.

Our sport, in the NRL and Super League, historically floats between these two poles, swinging back and forth towards one, then the other, over the years.

To an Australian, promotion and relegation seems a form of madness. Our population is too small and our resources too limited to waste on teams that are outside the elite, but hoping to get in. That money, to us, would be much better spent on junior development and promoting the elite teams we already have.

But I accept that promotion and relegation is, to quote colleague Jack Dearden, “the essence of the British sporting DNA”. I’m not going to alienate the majority of readers by summarily dismissing it.

So which of the three proposals is the right one, or closest to the right scenario for the game?

What does Super League need? It needs to stop bleeding money. It needs to eliminate meaningless games. It needs more uncertainty of results. It needs to maintain and improve a national (and international) presence.

Keeping the salary cap at Stg1.5 million but introducing a marquee player allowance (I’m told the player would go into the cap at a set amount but could be payed anything) serves the first objective. Something similar happens in Australian soccer, with Alexander Del Piero earning as much as the salary cap of two clubs.

Cutting the league back to 12 or 10 teams should serve the second objective. The third objective would be aided by combining the first two measures – you should not be allowed into Super League 1 unless you can illustrate you can – and will – spend Stg1.8 million on players each year.

If that means an eight- or nine-team league in 2014, then sobeit.

The last objective is tricky. Do we keep London Broncos in the top flight just because they’re in London? I’d argue their crowds are so poor that the dedicated band of fans that currently follows them would still go if they were in Super League 2.

But I’d hate to think they could not ever win their way back into the top flight.

I don’t know where you would get 24 teams to fill a double-decker Super League. Sure, the number of teams at the elite level needs to come down but you have the worst two Super League clubs playing alongside the top 10 in the championship, are people really going to swallow that as “Super League 2”?

Will any of the clubs in that competition be better off than they are now? And I’ll throw this back at the readers – if your team ends up in the bottom division of eight halfway through the season, will you be excited about the possibility of them winning that “also-ran” division and be more likely to go to matches?

That’s not a leading question – I am genuinely interested in the answer.

That’s option three. Option one is a 12-teams Super League with one side promoted and relegated each year.

Option two is two divisions of 10 with no guaranteed promotion and relegation.

None of the options are perfect but if pushed, I’d vote for number one – two 12 team leagues, with one side promoted and one relegated each year.

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IF you’ve picked up your copy of Forty20 magazine you’ll have seen some pretty interesting stuff regarding the international schedule heading up to 2017.

Much interest surrounds the return of Great Britain in 2015, with a tour of the southern hemisphere taking in two Tests each against Australia and New Zealand along with midweek games.

But the intriguing comment from RLIF chairman Scott Carter concerns the following season, when there is supposed to be a Four Nations in the northern hemisphere.

Carter reveals one alternative that’s been thrown up is having incoming tours from Australia and New Zealand at the same time, each playing Tests against England – and presumably other Home Nations.

It would be sort of like rugby union’s grand slam. Personally I really like this idea – particularly as it would encourage players to stick with Ireland, Scotland and Wales after the World Cup.

What do you think?

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IT’S not being reported but there is a steady flow of NRL stars currently pledging their allegiance to developing countries for the World Cup.

read on

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