FAR & WIDE: #3 2017

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

THE kerfuffle caused by colleague Robert Burgin’s RLW piece a couple of weeks ago is still rumbling on.

So far, the mooted rebellion of a dozen countries from the RLIF’s rule is still very much underground. There is still at least some possibility many countries will accept the offer of a fully funded tournament next year.

The way Far & Wide sees it, there is a very important line to be drawn.

I openly opposed, for instance, Penrith and Brisbane playing a game in Hawaii two years ago. My reasons were this: NRL players had demanded that spring off and Great Britain had therefore been told to stay home. Also, to be honest I was not sure NRL players on an end-of-season trip could be trusted to do more good than harm in a new territory.

But the main concern was this: expansion is too important to be done on an ad-hoc basis. It’s OK for soccer clubs to organise their pre-season and end-of-season games because soccer is widely played internationally.

Rugby league still is not.

International expansion should be part of an over-all strategy, not done in a piecemeal fashion by the competing teams – and in that respect alone I have sympathy for the RLIF in the decision not to allow Emerging Nations games to go ahead.

The games were initially intended to be curtain-raisers but would the teams involved have actually have fielded true national sides? I doubt every player would have satisfied the grandparent rule and I doubt the best players would have been available. And it was not the best countries; some of them do not have the required domestic activity to be in the World Cup qualifiers and others do.

But the RLIF did not block the tournament because of these concerns. The countries weren’t asked to stop calling the matches a “championship”. It was blocked because the World Cup asked for it to be blocked, citing exclusivity clauses.

The countries involved were allowed to continue planning for several months only to have those plans blocked. That’s why they’re angry. And they are justified in that.

Far & Wide would like to see any replacement tournament next year built into a proper structure. Perhaps a country without the proper bonafides could win a wildcard into the next World Cup qualification (although once there they would have to meet all requirements regarding the team they field).

I know that’s what the RLIF want. Let’s try to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear.
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2 Comments

  1. Unfortunately RLW never published this last week, which is a shame as the discourse on this is important for the international game. I have issue with a few points in this article, starting with the last line about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Yes, that’s what everyone will have to do because they ballsed it up first time around on largely unsubstantiated grounds. The issue is the emerging nations keep getting sold bloody sow’s ears and, if they keep taking it, that’s exactly what they’ll continue to get. Each year there is another broken promise to deal with. In terms of the ENWC being organised by the competing nations, I think everyone participating would have been happy if the RLIF wanted to organise it, but they were basically told the RLIF were happy with it, but we had to do all the legwork. The countries didn’t take charge of planning ENWC to fall out of line or through a sense of rebellion. It was so shit would get done. Comparing this to the NRL in Hawaii example is problematic as the NRL give their teams ample opportunity to play throughout the year in a structured fashion. How many international games a year would happen if the RLIF alone was responsible for making them happen? They barely make games happen for the top 14 nations, let alone the remainder. Let’s be 100% honest that there was NEVER EVER a plan for a 2018 ENWC until the RLIF realised enough teams were on board to make things happen. There was no forethought of how to expose or encourage the developing nations in a World Cup year prior to that, no ‘legacy’ that these nations enjoyed from the 2013 World Cup, and basically little consideration at all. In terms of the comments about heritage, frankly that’s a little bit insulting, and in the case of Latin American Rugby League, we’re very pedantic about the record-keeping that substantiates this background, as I noted teams like Hungary, Thailand and Africa United were in recent events. In many ways, there is less chance of someone “doing a Nathan Fien”, because to represent a minnow nation and get your arse kicked consistently, you have to have a real, deep, passionate connection with what you represent. Nobody gets paid and would perhaps incur several $1000s worth of expenses to represent their heritage. Our heritage records are catalogued and Dropboxed and the RLIF has open access to these folders. My other issue is assuming an ENWC would have to be ‘the best of the second tier’. The reason for ENWC to exist is promotional, first and foremost. We need to be exhibiting a pathway, an incentive and a showpiece for the sport in all continents. While we need rules in place, Rugby League has an incredible capacity to be detrimentally ideological in its approach to worldwide development. The reality of starting up leagues in foreign countries, getting these to a point where they fulfil all the RLIF criteria, staying financially viable during this period, being considered a serious sport by the public, government, other sports is reliant on being tied to the top level in some publicly visible way, not being left to wither on the vine at arm’s length in the vain hope something survives and takes root. Well done to countries like Serbia who can fulfil all the RLIF criteria and have worked hard to establish their domestic competitions. It’ll still be 50 years before they compete with the top teams. We can remain concreted to strict ideologies of development systems and continue to get the same expansion results rugby league has suffered internationally in previous decades. Bringing 100s of people from developing nations to a World Cup, letting them see the splendour and spectacle of the event, the seriousness with which it is taken at the top level, the career opportunities, the tangible lifestyle and educational possibilities, would have done an infinite amount to encourage the spread of the game. Instead we are leaving these people to hang out to dry, with no feedback, no funding, no sense of what the game is like at the top level, terrible international broadcast rights and a dodgy livestream system, waiting for people to somehow stumble on the game and fall in love with it. It’s lunacy. For next year’s delayed ENWC we are told funding will be allocated AFTER a committee of participating nations goes away and formulates the business plan. What other global sport does that? Organise your own business plan, your own strategy, not leave it with the countries you just bent over royally. Who is in control of this situation?

  2. Dear Steve,I completely agree with you regarding the 2019 english tour down under,the team should be called Great Britain,such an iconic name with great history,instead of ‘england’ which is too reductive.Please put pressure on David Collier to have the GB name used for 2019 tour.I am a french rugby league fan and avid reader of your articles.Cheers,Olivier.

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