>>In the final analysis, now that there is genuine commercial competition
>>from RU, RL will wither on the vine unless it can expand quickly. It is
>>true that existing RL supporters will not easilly drift into the RU camp,
>>but that is not where the real threat comes from.
>>RU already has four massive advantages when it comes to capturing the
>>real money (tellydosh):
>>a) An entrenched position in the UK and international media
>>b) A national image, capable of mobilising sportive nationalism
>>c) A well-established base for international club and country competion
>>d) A residual fund of articulate and monied voluntary support
>>With those advantages, I'm pretty sure that Newcastle will not be the only
>>attempt to build a commercial club in the big urban centres of the North
>>of England. Already, (see today's Observer), we see plans for Orrell to exploit
>>the *** position of Rugby in the Wigan area. How long will it be before
>>the Leeds RU club find themselves one or two John Halls?
>>My point here, is not that local RU clubs will suddenly rob Northern League
>>clubs of their players and supporters, but that they may gradually eclipse them
>>in terms of wider local popular and media attention. In such circumstances,
>>youngsters thinking of alternatives to Football (Soccer) are more likely to turn
>>first to the 15 man game. Just as importantly, many of the local sponsors
>>who provide the financial saftey-net for many RL clubs, will see RU as a
>>better bet for securing publicity and an up-market image.
>>Personally, I were a Leeds or Wigan* (add your alternative) director I would
>>be approaching the local RU club with a proposal for a COMMERCIAL merger,
>>like that envisaged in Hall's 'Sporting Club Newcastle'. Now that the two
>>codes will be playing at opposite ends of the year, there is every reason to
>>consider sharing all manner of facilities (grounds, training, promotional
>>infrastructure, ... even some players!), to exploit the once in a life-time
>>opportunity for both codes to escape their respective ghettos.
>However, when the Leeds RU ground is demolished to make way for a super-
>market, it is rumoured that the Union team will move into the more palatial
>surroundings of Headingley, once the move to Summer is in effect. As for
>Bramley then, well who knows? I do not know the details of this arrangement,
>but I suppose it might well include training facilities and it would be
>practical for them to move their admin. base there aswell. However, the idea
>of sharing players seems highly unlikely, given that Leeds RL have opposed
>any of their players playing off season football in Australia recently, so I
>would imagine that the same would apply to them playing third division Union.
Just to make things clear. I never expected, or suggested, that top flight
League players should play 12 months of Rugby. I was merely alluding to
a number of serious possibilities:
a) for older players who can no longer perform meet the fitness requirements
of first grade RL (Shaun Edwards has suggested he could go on to 40 in RU)
b) for previously injured players who have missed a significant part of the
super league season.
c) for 2nd string players who feel they are not getting enough match practice
(I'm most dubious bout this possibility)
>In Wigan, the RL club has recently invested some #250,000 in upgrading the
>local Union sides ground, so that the RL team can train and the Academy
>team can play there, and also some of the club's admin. base has been moved.
>In return the RU club will be able to play some big games at Central Park.
>The only problem here is that, as at Headingley, the Union crowds will be
>somewhat lost in a 30,000-capacity stadium.
Nevertheless, it looks like a mutually beneficial arrangement to me.
>However I think that League has little to fear from Union, in terms of being
>eclipsed by it, in the game's heartlands. From what I have seen of Leeds RU's
>promotion and ambition, it seems to be somewhat amateurish, to say the least.
>Also, although League may lack exposure in the national media, it is very well
>served by the local media, and potential fans, who buy, say the "Yorkshire
>Evening Post" in the Leeds area, will find as much League in there as soccer,
>and BBC Radio Leeds serves the game well, too (and that is to say nothing of
>Radio Headingley, "the all-action Leeds Rugby League Radio Station"). It
>would have to be a very optimistic Union fan that thinks all this can be
>overcome, even with a little bit of money. You must take into account that clubs
>like Leeds RL already have very rich benefactors (the Superleague money alone
>would not pay the #15m needed to rebuild Headingley's rugby stadium), and
>should be able to find some more if the need arose. Wigan are in a different
>situation, but they could always call upon the likes of Dave Whelan (who owns
>JJB Sports), if they are ever strapped for cash. You pose the question of
>how long it will be before Leeds RU club finds a rich backer. The answer must
>be, a very long time! I cannot see it happening. Just one look at what their
>aims and ambitions are, would put most prospective John Halls off.
>Sharing facilities is all well and good, but Union will never take
>over League's *** in the North.
As a Leeds lad, I'm aware of Leeds RLFC's strong local presence, but feel
it would be a serious mistake to overestimate its long-term significance:
a) because, the strong northern base has always been the major factor
undermining a CONSISTENT long-term strategy for expansion.
b) because, even in areas like Leeds, RL is still a minority interest. (e.g.
in my 6 years at a north Leeds Comprehensive I never once succeeded in
persuading my schoolfriends to go to Headingley instead of Elland Rd)
c) because, the cultural life of big cities almost invariably has a national
or international focus (I suspect I might have had more success in persuading
my schoolfriends if Leeds RL had been playing 'Real Madrid' etc, rather
than the likes of Cas, Feth, and Wakefield).
d) because, what many existing fans think of as RL's social & cultural virtues
(self-discipline, unsegregated fans, family atmosphere etc), are often regarded
as somewhat 'old-fashioned' by young people fed on a diet of fast-action
TV/video/computer orientated entertainment.
RL may be a brilliant, fast-action, product on the field, but a wider audience
is not going to appreciate that until they actually take the chance to see it.
The existing national media coverage doesn't help, and it isn't going to,
until TV executives see the danger of missing out on a new wave of
popular entertainment. RU, and a number of other minority sports, get TV
coverage because they appeal to TV producers' own interests directly. RL
is unlikely to ever have this advantage ... it will have to offer more overt
inducements, i.e. audience share and advertising opportunities.
In my experience, the best way of winning converts to RL is to take them
to a live game ... almost invariably people are amazed by the pace, skill,
and physical confrontation. They simply don't pick that up from occasional
glimses on TV.