Up the Cream’s ‘Extraordinary General Meeting’

Welcome to the Up the Cream ‘Extraordinary General Meeting’.

It’s not exactly D-Day, nor it is as historically important as that night in the George Hotel, Huddersfield, but rugby league has decisions to make as the RFL members meet to discuss the sports future this Friday.

After squabbling amongst each other for months, issuing statement after statement, the bigger picture goes beyond what structure we want to implement, but in order to get somewhere with a potentially bigger TV deal, more exposure, more marketing etc, we need a structure that doesn’t leave a quarter of the season unknown until the end of July. We need a structure that will allow rugby league to prosper, give it a brighter future, and be the best that it can be.

So without further ado, here’s what some of our mischievous delinquents associated with rugby leagues most prominent fanzine scribbled together on a scrap piece of paper.

Name: Dan Tomlinson – Doom merchant, pessimist and bossman

What structure do you want? 

Super League – 12 teams, home and away and no Magic Weekend bonanza up in Newcastle, 22 regular season fixtures, no loop games. Also, want an earlier entree for top flight clubs into the Challenge Cup, which subsidises less league fixtures, with the final brought back to May.

Playoffs – Top six. Like when Hull made Old Trafford a decade or so ago. Incentive to finish in the top two as get a second crack, with third to sixth places knockout fixtures, as they should be.

Relegation – One up. One down. No play-off, even though that means no more legendary Gareth O’Brien moments. Sigh.

Championship – 12 teams, home and away, no bash, 22 fixtures, one up, one down. It’s not rocket science.

League 1 – 12 teams. Potential to increase and even introduce a Legaue 2 if necessary. Perfect for clubs who want to establish themselves before going professional. Any expansionism projects must supplement away teams and provide proof of this, but also cement a community and get junior systems into place, like London and Catalans have done. Freeze promotion until all criteria is matched.

Biggest threat to rugby league? 

Ralph Rimmer. Who can trust a man with a surname like that?

What frustrates you most about rugby league? 

The amateur nature of it. Things like announcing a test series and then announcing a fixture change soon after. A lack of continuity in the league structure, how are we supposed to entice new fans, broadcasters, partners etc when we constantly chop and change? This is what holds us back, and why we don’t get enough exposure. When the TV deal expires in 2021, we need innovative thinking, more matches on terrestrial channels is a must, and a more logical distribution of the money, in particular central funding, is imperative. We can’t be dictated to by the likes of Batley, Dewsbury etc, who have as much relevance as a salad on Nigel Wood’s dinner plate.

JAMES CHILD

Name: Tom Crosby – Rugby Satirist and Airlie Exile

What structure do you want?

Super League – 12 teams (Later to expand to 14 then eventually up to 18 teams only if TV deals, finances, player base and appropriately-stable clubs are in place). New teams must be promoted through the league structure.

Playoffs – Top five teams playoff under the same system as its previous implementation in early 2000s. This system gives huge benefit to the top two, as it should, whilst still giving the best performing teams a shot. Any system with more teams dilutes quality, as teams can be in the playoffs despite having lost more games than they’ve won.

Relegation – One up, one down. No Million Pound anything, regardless of how hilarious it may have been that one specific time…ahem, yeah…

Championship – 14 teams. There’s just about the quality in the lower leagues to support this.

League 1 – Teams entered on merit rather than geography, under stricter criteria. Teams to be based in the areas where they play, with the short-term exception of North American teams willing to climb the pyramid. New teams to take more traditional, and therefore more natural, names to help them anchor themselves in the actual local cultures where they play.

Biggest threat to rugby league?

The sport vanishing in the maelstrom of new streaming-based online content. We need a bigger footprint on terrestrial TV and to be more readily viewable for casual fans in general.

What frustrates you most about RL?

Our inability to market the game effectively. This, in my opinion, doesn’t mean Americanising/Australianising. People in Sheffield aren’t naturally fond of eagles. Honest. We have a storied history other sports would kill for. Let’s sell it.

r.ip super league

Name: Rich Harrison – Hull FC fan of 40 years and portrayer of a dodgy Anglo-Australian accent

What structure do you want?

Super League – 14 team league. Each team to play each other home and away. 27 league games (Including Magic Weekend) plus Challenge Cup with May Final at Wembley.

Playoffs – Top eight playoff as per Aussie system (Top four get two chances and the next four are straight knockout). Grand Final in September/October at Old Trafford.

Relegation – Two up, two down. Million pound game (despite its comedy potential) is a terrible concept.

Championship/League One – 12 teams each. 2 up 2 down, no playoffs.

What is the biggest threat to rugby league? 

Biggest threat is apathy. Apathy from casual supporters, administration and owners. There’s been a lot of fiddling whilst Rome burns. Starting a season with no clear direction on how it will end is ludicrous. Pick a format and stick to it for a minimum of ten years.

What frustrates you the most about rugby league? 

I get frustrated with the standard of refereeing, the constant backbiting and rumour mongering on both sides of the world, mind you looking at the job the Union are doing in imploding in Australia at least we’re better than that.

Hull FC Castleford

Name: Sam Shepherd – Newshound, angry ginger, and sports hooligan

What structure do you want?

Super League – 14 teams. More than enough talent in this years Qualifiers to show that Super League can carry another two teams. The extra two games would bump the regular season up to 26 games plus Magic Weekend.

Playoffs – Scrap the Super 8s and after 27 rounds the top six playoff. 1st vs 2nd with the winner going straight to Old Trafford and loser getting a second chance, as we benefited from in 2006. Gives the advantage to the top two sides and rightly so after a 27 game season plus it keeps teams as low as 6th, 7th and 8th interested until the end of the season scrapping for a meaningful playoff place.

Relegation – It would never happen but I would love to see a similar system to the one used in Scottish Football. The teams at the top of the Championship and League One are automatically promoted replacing the last placed teams in Super League and the Championship. The teams finishing in second in the Championship and League One then play a “Million Pound Game” style match against the teams that finish second from bottom in Super League and the Championship and if they win they replace the team who finished second from bottom in the league above them. This would mean teams not likely to finish bottom would not be able to throw the towel in early as you would want to avoid finishing second from bottom.

Championship/League One – Both 12 Teams

What is the biggest threat to rugby league?

The broadcast deal and the power of Sky Sports. The current TV deal we have is ludicrous with Sky having far too much say in the scheduling of the games while employing dinosaur commentators who lost any dynamism they had when Stevo left. They do nothing to promote the games on their channels while other more minor sports see extensive advertising. The world of sports broadcasting is changing and we need to move with the times. See what other broadcasters have to offer us and take control of scheduling again. Thursday nights have to go.

What frustrates you most about rugby league?

We don’t move with the times. The RFL are a joke and their efforts to promote and grow the “Greatest game of all” are pathetic. On top of that there are too many flatcappers out there who would still love to be at crumbling old grounds with a cup of Bovril and the smell of stale piss in the air. Those times are gone, we have an amazing product but we don’t sell it well enough and get more people interested in the game. We are getting overtaken by the NFL for popularity in this country and that sport doesn’t even have a professional team in the UK. Rugby League needs to get into the 21st century.

Agree? Disagree? Comment your thoughts below… 

 

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About Dan Tomlinson
Founder, editor and the main man behind Up the Cream.

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