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Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Is Superleague predictable and elitist?
Rugby league's top flight faces accusations that it is becoming too predictable, and the lower division clubs complain that it is a closed shop - what do you think?
The creation of Superleague was all about creating a marketable elite league for rugby league.
But is the whole concept at the expense of genuine competition throughout all levels of the sport.
Fans are now faced with an increasing number of dominant wins by the bigger clubs over their lesser rivals in Superleague.
The arrival of more Australian stars at Leeds, Wigan, St Helen's and Bradford looks set to accelerate the process next year.
And outside the top flight the best Premiership clubs are being told that their prospects for the promotion they have fought for are slim.
Dewsbury and Leigh have both been told their grounds do not come up to scratch. Yet they complain that even some of the top clubs do not fulfil the tough criteria.
So is the sport becoming too elite with only four or five clubs capable of reaching the top?
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Steve Hallam shows no understanding of the effect of merging clubs. The Hull-Gateshead merger was a complete sham in which the Gateshead fans were abandoned, and the Hull fans were given everything. The Huddersfield-Sheffield merger has been completely ignored by the people of Sheffield, and has contributed enormously to the general apathy towards the game in Huddersfield. If Hudds/Sheff does not revert back to being Huddersfield there will be no professional club in the town in two seasons time - that is certainly not progress. Both decisions were tremendously unpopular, and a three way merger between Cas, Fev and Wakefield would damage, perhaps fatally, the games credibility in those three towns. You cannot play around with rugby clubs that have been part of people's families for decades.
As an outsider, I don't see how the game can grow when the league was switched to summer, competing against Wimbledon, open golf, athletics, and is limited to Sky TV and Radio Five Live. A mass audience is only available for the RL Challenge Cup, especially the final. It seems to me that a few teams are content to cream off Murdoch money to buy talent from overseas, and never mind about other clubs, some of which died to form the superleague. It would be nice if a large TV audience could be given the chance to decide whether RL is a better sport than RU, as its followers always proclaim.
The system at present, as dictated by Mr Lindsay, is ridiculous. The prospect of no relegation or promotion makes the superleague a sham. The reasons given for not promoting some NFP teams are ridiculous. Until the superleague is opened up to all teams there can't be any chance of the game expanding into the mass spectator sport it deserves to be. Ultimately this could result in self destruction.
Rob Gwatkin, England
A basic sporting right is that success is awarded with a chance to compete at a higher level. There is no just reason why NFP clubs should not be allowed promotion. Without this there is no reason for clubs outside of SL to have anything to do with the RFL. Until this basic right is restored RL will suffer and continue to be a laughing stock.
A suggestion from left field - why not make it compulsory for Superleague clubs to "twin" with an Australian NRL club, whereby the clubs can interchange a small limited number of players each year? This would give young Poms and Aussies the chance to learn and develop skills in the other country, and be available to return to the "mother club" after a set time. Alternatively, older players can also learn at the end of their careers, setting them up with coaching skills which could be put back into the junior systems. It's an idea that needs developing, but such a twinning system could help English Rugby League out and restrict the large numbers of Aussies coming over and choking the game.
I believe that the Super League has raised the standards of Rugby League in this country. The concept of Super League has forced clubs to take a good look at themselves and to improve the facilities that they offer. My own club, Widnes Vikings, whilst not in Super League have been an example of this. The Vikings have worked closely with Halton Council to provide a brilliant stadium and have worked hard off the pitch to improve our financial position. This has been great for the club, if only we could get it right on the field then we will be sorted. Other clubs such as the Bulls, Warriors, Rhinos and the Tigers have led the way in Super League. Hopefully the other clubs in Super League and indeed the whole of Rugby League will follow their lead. If so I am confident that the Super League will eventually be the wonderful competition that it was intended to be. Just look at the quality of the youngsters coming through at some of the clubs that I have mentioned. With the likes of Chev Walker, Leon Price, Richard Horne, Jamie Peacock and Stuart Fielden coming through hopefully we can then get to beat the Aussies.
David Shallcross, UK
It is predictable and it will remain so as long as the best support and finances are concentrated at the top. It is because of this that the top clubs have pretty good youth development schemes. Worryingly, the lesser clubs are buying more and more mediocre talent. No-one will argue with the Brett Dallas' of this world, but you cannot tell me that the average overseas player at Wakefield is any better than we can produce. It is however a cheaper option than funding a proper academy. On the second point, as a Leigh fan I am gutted at the decision to refuse us entry. Don't get me wrong, I know we will get murdered almost every week, but how are you supposed to move forward without that opportunity? We are not that far off anyway, we only narrowly lost to Wakefield in this year's Challenge Cup. I think it is basically because, Dewsbury and Leigh don't seem sexy enough to the SL marketing department!
To say Super League is a joke is totally unfair. Like it or loathe it, if Murdoch hadn't come along when he did, Rugby League would be in a much worse state than it is now. The problem now is not whether Super League is a closed shop, rather it's a problem of administrators that identify too closely with their own clubs and do not see the bigger picture. Remember it's not just Super League that excludes clubs on tenuous grounds. The Northern Ford Premier League did exactly the same thing to Sheffield last year until they saw sense. The powers that be at all levels need to take a step back and stop sniping at each other, and instead work together in promoting the game as a whole.
Sam Grundy, England
I think that there is some truth in the assertion that a strong youth policy can reap dividends - however, ultimatley the best youth end up at the big clubs. Take both Isetyn Harris and Paul Sculthorpe as examples. In addition, I find it disturbing that Maurice Lindsay has objected to the eminently sensible suggestion that the wage cap is set at £1.5m, as this would remove some of the massive advantage currently enjoyed by the Wigans of this world. Surely this can only be good for the game. As a self-professed rugby league man, Lindsay should support this initiative instead of concentrating on his own empire building. In any case, bought success is far less rewarding than earnt success, ie that success found on a level playing field. I fear that the power brokers of rugby league will ruin what is a great game by their short-sightedness and inabilty to take the bull by the horns and do the necessary - instead of bottling it when faced by opposition from the big clubs. Rugby league is about more than providing a backdrop for the big four to fight it out against.
Superleague is and has been a joke for several years now. The administrators talk of expansion,yet we retreat into our heartlands. We all talk about improving quality yet we try and recruit as many overseas players as we possibly can, resulting in less opportunities for good home grown talent to develop. Rugby league will never go forward until the powers that be realise that you can not make the sport what it is not, but you can enhance what you have already got. Let`s stop living in fantasy land and start living in the real world. Promotion when it is deserved and relegation when it`s deserved would be a good start.
Tony Townend, England
The Superleague does have a 'super league' second division, it is called the Northern Ford Premiership, the only difference being that the SL clubs take the majority of the Murdoch 'blood money'and in two years time will take it all can this be fair ?
As for Superleague clubs bringing through new talent then why are they trawling Australia for players and paying them huge salaries?
No it is time for a complete rethink of the whole game of rugby league, which must include Superleague, Northern Ford Premiership (NFP) and representatives of the amatuer game all having an equal vote.
The Superleague could improve by further club mergers, for example in West Yorkshire there is a huge fan base but too many clubs! If Wakefield, Castleford and Featherstone consolidated and created one huge club, they could rival the big four and it would give other clubs a chance to be promoted. I know this is not a new idea, but we need to change to survive and improve. Superleague has raised the profile of the game, but more painful changes need to happen, maybe then we will begin to compete with the Australians for the first time in many years.
The game needs to keep promotion and relegation. Superleague needs it just as much as the Northern Ford Premiership. If teams like Huddersfield and Salford had something to play for - such as the threat of a relegation battle - it would give them greater impetus to perform. Having seen both teams this season, they both have good enough players, but they are simply not motivated. They appear to be just turning up for the money. Talking of which, that is why the Superleague clubs don't want the NFP clubs in. Even as a die-hard fan I find it dispiriting, and, living in the south, I find it difficult to explain the situation when talking about the game to my soccer-mad work colleagues, it is becoming embarassing when talking about how badly this sport is run. Being a league fan living in the south, it becomes worse when you have to explain why Huddersfield have finished bottom of the table for the last three seasons, yet haven't been relegated, and why the league leaders aren't promoted from the NFP. Yes, the game is now elitist - not a sport for all, as it was created to be over a hundred years ago.
Richard Newlove, UK
Yes is the short answer. The top four clubs will continue to do well because they are the best supported. Unless other clubs can attract bigger crowds and get the bigger and better players the Super league trophy will continue to go to Bradford, St. Helens, Wigan and Leeds. This will be the situation for the next ten or twenty years. The only solution is the decrease the number of teams in the super league to ten or eight. There could be a second super league division so that clubs still get live TV coverage, big prize money, quality players and the chance to play the bigger clubs maybe once a year. There could be relegation and promotion and the top club or clubs could have a chance of competing the end of season play offs.
Tom Bown, United Kingdom
The Superleague is a joke, it has ruined the game of rugby league, and threatens to eliminate it completely. The game has been fueled by money and its real beauty has been lost.
Daniel Pollard, England
If people look at the facts, the top clubs have invested in youth rugby, which is now starting to come into fruition. Look at the players Wigan, Leeds and Bradford have brought through the academies. It's not just buying Aussies that makes these clubs successful, it's a mixture of local youth and shrewd signings.
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