Ideas to grow the great sport of Rugby League
'Cos God knows the RFL can't do it!
Apologies to American readers of the site as this isn't going to mean anything to you...
1. Abandon the World Cup concept altogether.
Apeing Rugby Union is never going to succeed and is just playing the game by their rules.
Yes, Rugby League had a world cup long before Union did but it is just the wrong format for the sport. The game is not (yet) spread widely enough to make it a meaningful competition and there are better ways of structuring international competition (see below).
2. Institute a new, four-way tournament between England, Australia, New Zealand and One Other - call it The Pacific Cup or something.
The other should be the winner of the new Global Championship (see Item #3). This would make for a more intense competition with no meaningless games.
3. Replace the World Cup for the lower tier nations with a new Global Championship - enable all Tier 1 players to register for a Tier 2 country if they have personal ties.
Because watching NRL players turning out for Lebanon is always fun!
4. Re-introduce franchises in Super League
They are never going to build the lower teams up, bring more investment into the sport etc if clubs can be bankrupted by being relegated. Have promotion and relegation be criteria based - you have to maintain a minimum crowd size, maintain a youth team etc.
5. Forget about forcing a team in London and concentrate on the North.
Around 15mm people live in Northern England. That is plenty for the sport to working with - by comparison, Australia has a population of 25mm, but New Zealand only 5mm. Rugby League should be positioning itself as part of the burgeoning Northern cultural and political consciousness, working with prominent local politicians (Burnham in Manchester is the obvious, but not only choice) and businesses. It is time to throw off the long-held sense of inferiority to the South. There is so much pride in that region - harness it!
6. Consolidate some teams into NRL style joint venture clubs
The sport is spread too thinly across too many historical clubs in Lancashire/Yorkshire. Don't need to formally merge them so they go out of existence, but use the NRL model of joint venture clubs to compete in Super League, they can continue in their original form in the Challenge Cup.
7. Re-vamp the World Club Championship
Move it closer to the orginal 90s Super League concept with the Northern and Southern hemisphere champions playing off against one another at the end of both domestic seasons.
8. Revise the TV rights strategy with a focus on online delivery
Super League games not shown on Sky Sports should be available on the Super League's own app for a subscription. If this proves suitably popular then dump Sky altogether.
Every Challenge Cup game should be available as well - either because it is being shown by the BBC or on the RFL's own app. Same for the 1896 Cup.
In Australia, only live games are behind a paywall - 24 hrs later the full match replay is available, for free, at NRL.com. This is how you grow interest in a sport, you make it free and easy for people to try it out and began engaging on a casual basis.
9. Northern Hemisphere needs an equivalent to "State of Origin"
Origin is insanely popular in Australia, and that series is the pinnacle of the sport in terms of performance and intensity - even more so than a world cup final between Australia and England.
It is also a huge revenue earner for the league in Australia - we need something similar in the northern hemisphere. The obvious choice would be Lancashire/Yorkshire, but that was tried before and didn't stick so we'd have to look closely why not. However, the rise of Catalans and Toulouse does complicate what would have been a easy choice ten years ago.
Some kind of mid-season All Star series is what is required:
- perhaps have the fans vote on who they want and assign players on a sort of draft system, or
- make it a three-way competition with "Reds" (Lancashire/Cumbria origin players), "Whites" (Yorkshire and Humber) and "Blues" (France and Overseas). Or something historical: House of Lancaster v House of York v House of Anjou.
10. Have a global "State of Origin" and move away from traditional style international tournaments altogether.
Northern hemisphere v Southern hemisphere
This could be part of a more radical approach of abandoning nation based international competition altogether at the Tier 1 level and simply having two championships above the domestic leagues: (1) Global Orgin and (2) World Club Challenge.
Position Rugby League as the global sport that operates at a level above petty national rivalries.