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Questions remain after Crusaders decision

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George Riley George Riley | 20:55 UK time, Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The stunning news that Wakefield will continue to play in Super League for another three years but Crusaders will, after this season is over, no longer sit at the top table is a major blow to the Rugby Football League.

Tuesday's announcement also poses so many more questions than it answers given that the writing appeared to be on the wall for the Wildcats after they failed to make the necessary strides to meet the licensing criteria governing stadia.

The RFL's executive chairman, Richard Lewis, had preceded his announcement by insisting that the licensing system was "meeting its objectives" in encouraging a wholesale move away from short-term thinking and thus improving the health of the game.

But is it?

Wakefield concede a try to Castleford at the Millennium Stadium in their opening game of the new Super League season. Pic: Getty

Wakefield in action in the Super League against Castleford Photo: Getty


We cannot blame the RFL's hierarchy for the financial plight of the Crusaders.

Indeed, the game's governing body bent over backwards to help the Welsh side out, especially with the relocation to Wrexham when Newport failed.

But what would the RFL have done if Crusaders had not withdrawn their licence application because of the financial demands of maintaining a Super League club?

Would it have booted out Wakefield, as many had anticipated it would do?

There are other questions to ponder too.

Given that Wakefield's application had looked primed to fail, why is it now good enough? Or are we left with a 14-team Super League in which only 13 clubs are Super-League fit?

And if Wakefield's application was not up scratch, then, regardless of the withdrawal of Crusaders, why didn't the RFL elevate Halifax to the elite instead?

Now that Wakefield have been granted a surprise reprieve, what does it mean for their immediate future? I understand several players had already begun contemplating their options for next season. Will they stay or will they leave in light of Tuesday's news?

Finally, where does Tuesday's announcement leave rugby league in Wales, not to mention Crusaders coach Iestyn Harris and recent Crusaders signing Keith Senior?

The Senior question is one I can answer. I spoke to the veteran Great Britain centre straight after the RFL's announcement and he was absolutely fuming. He only found out what was happening by watching the media conference live on television and tells me other Crusaders players only learned the bad news minutes before the conference began.

Senior believes the contract he signed is now null and void and he is already looking for a new employer.

As for Halifax, their chairman, Michael Steele, is as angry as Senior.

He says Fax should be in Super League at Wakefield's expense, arguing that his club's history equals that of Wakefield, that his club have a ground and Wakefield don't, and that his club are in much better financial shape than Wakefield.

"They've broken the terms of their existing licence, so why give them another one?" asks Steele, who is left with the same kind of bad taste that Widnes experienced when they were excluded from Super League three years ago.

The licence system was introduced to stop clubs over-stretching their finances with the short-termism of avoiding relegation. Yet the fate that now awaits Crusaders after falling out of Super League could realistically be that they go bust all together.

Lewis will rightly argue that this first licensing system has coincided with the most pressing period in recent financial memory. I cannot disagree with that claim or the assertion that standards have improved since the introduction of licensing.

Where the license system has been excellent is encouraging the development of homegrown talent. Lewis is right to highlight the 118 locally-cultivated players in the game this year.

The licensing system has also kicked the backsides of Castleford, St Helens, Salford and now, hopefully, Wakefield, on the issue of stadia.

But the Crusaders gamble has backfired spectacularly and that is an embarrassment for the sport's governing body and a hammer blow to their bid to promote the game in Wales.

Discussions will continue about the possible participation of the Crusaders in the Championship but I fear for their very future.

I understand that Harris is, like the players, absolutely livid and ready to walk out. I would be amazed if he sticks around.

As for Wakefield, I am delighted for the club, the players, the fans and coach John Kear.

We spoke to Lewis on the BBC a couple of hours before he made his shock announcement.

When challenged on the merits of the controversial licensing system, he said he was confident it was the right path.

"When rugby league introduced the play-offs, there was controversy but - hey presto - look who has copied us," he said, no doubt with rugby union in mind.

"Licensing might be something other sports copy in the future. Right now, rugby league believes it is the right thing to do for our sport."

Right now, I'm not so sure.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    scrap the license system its clearly not going down well, yes well done to the RFL for again trying something new but nothing is better than the last weekend tension of two clubs fighting it out to avoid relegation. Keep a 14 team super league 6 team play offs two go down one up automatically for finishing top of co-op Championship and other through playoffs.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fantastic blog as ever George.
    Really feel for Halifax as I used to own a business there. They love Rugby league with a passion, as my pubs tills would testify every match night during the season.
    Crusaders management have let down an awful lot of people. The feeling among fans I have spoken to is that no matter what went on today, in 3 years time the RFL would still give a welsh side a licence ahead of Halifax, because of the need for expansion away form the M62 corridor.
    Ideally for me, another French team would benefit from a licence and perhaps expand the league to include them. Everyone thought that the Dragons were a waste of time (myself included) when they joined SL, but I am glad to say I was wrong.
    They have been a great side & improved each year.
    As to licencing over promotion, that, I wouldnt be able to answer as each has its merits & drawbacks, but I would prefer the old 2 up, 2 down on merit.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's little surprise to rugby league fans that the whole thing has ended up in a gigantic mess. The licensing system doesn't seem to be doing what it was designed to do. There is still a disparity between the clubs at the higher end and those at the lower end of Super League. There seems to be a few teams that aren't capable of spending the full amount on the salary cap and fail to be competitive.

    A 10 team Super League containing the strongest clubs should be the way forward. It would allow the most financially viable clubs to grow, the standard of Super League should increase through better competition week in week out, the salary cap could be raised allowing the best players to be paid enough to keep them from straying to Union and hopefully Super League could become a rival to the NRL.
    The teams cut from Super League could go into a much stronger Championship division of a similar standard as the lower half of Super League currently. They could have a higher salary cap than the current Championship and there should be enough quality players to go round. The teams that thrive in that lower division could then be added to the Super League once they definitely meet the required criteria.
    That way it's less likely for teams that don't meet the criteria to remain in Super League despite making no progress since the last license application and those that do meet the criteria can move up with little fuss.

  • Comment number 4.

    With the disappearance of the the Crusaders, Rugby League has effectively vacated a whole country in one stroke and shrunk back into it's increasingly isolated and small world.

  • Comment number 5.

    Rugby league in Wales will still exist through the South Wales Scoprions and possibly the Crusaders in the Championship - however if they had confirmed that Cru will be playing in the Championship immediately I believe the fallout would have been much smaller.

    The running of the Crusaders have nothing been short of shambolic though, last minute decisions, players and staff not being informed. A very embarassing day for rugby league.

    (Also, the link to this blog entry on the RL page is broken)

  • Comment number 6.

    It does feel like defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, but I suppose the licensing does make clubs and the RFL face up to harsh realities every three years. If we didn't have licensing, then Crusaders might have struggled on for a while before collapsing and other clubs would never improve their stadiums. It's probably brought forward the inevitable. Maybe the Scorpions can develop into a sustainable Super League club in Wales, as RL needs to expand out of the heartland.

    It's a shame a second French team isn't ready to join, but, as you say, we are in difficult economic times.

    We don't know how good Fax's bid was, but Wakefield are surely on their ninth and final life.

  • Comment number 7.

    At Halifax we didn't expect to get a licence until Crusaders withdrew. Then in a fair and open system we were a shoe-in. Wakey have only broken promises and failed plans, Halifax have bricks and mortar in place.

    I fear the lessons we have learnt is that there is no point striving to comply with the rfl's ever changing criteria and demands, Halifax were never in the running, we know that now.

  • Comment number 8.

    14 teams is too many for Super League. 10 teams playing each other 3 times would be best. One up one down automatic promotion relegation. It is a code based around three counties & south east France. Nothing wrong with that. AFL in Aussie is limited in appeal beyond Australia, but has just signed a billon dollar TV deal, NRL to follow suit.

    Most Rugby Union clubs make a loss worldwide, so nothing to brag about...

  • Comment number 9.

    I thought Wakefield would be booted so surprised but not shocked that Crusaders have gone. Disappointed for North Wales but the Crusaders have had lots of things go against them and I think it's the right decision.

    Expansion can work as proved by the Catalan team, but crucially Rugby League was played there both in the French Rugby League and in the schools there and so the RFL was promoting an existing setup which has flourished.

    Crusaders and London in their various guises to some extent have tried to do the opposite and put a team into a non-Rugby League playing area and tried to build up support that way. There is no doubt that there are lots of schools in London and Wales now playing Rugby League as a result of these expansions and Quins are bringing through the first batch of these youngsters and their academy has started to contribute to the England Academy team. These are real positive effects of sticking with an expansion team though attendances remain very disappointing.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't think Halifax are being fair in criticizing us, The Mighty Wakefield Trinity.
    The major problem we were being condemned for was our lack of a stadium, but our attempts at building one was completely taken out of our hands when it was referred to the Home Office.
    Despite this our new owners have made leaps & bounds to sort things out, much to their great credit - it could also be said that if SL had thrown us out, after allegedly knocking back our willingness to go to Barnsley for a year or so, we would have had grounds to sue too.
    They also claim that they have never been into administration, which although true, I recall the reason Halifax are in the championship is because they were relegated on Zero points because they were so strapped for cash that they could barely field a team.
    Ultimately it is because of this relegation that we were favoured over them, I am very sad for them that it does seem like there is no way back, but lets be honest thats exactly what would have happened to Wakey if we had been relegated.
    It must also be said, despite all our trials and tribulations we have never come bottom of SuperLeague, if we had they would have relegated our sorry ass without question which is only fair, however there are teams in SL who they would never have relegated regardless of where they finished

  • Comment number 11.

    Whether Wakefiled or Halifax should be in Super Legue next season is a matter for debate. The real problem here is that SL would have happily kept Crusaders in the top flight despite low crowds & near financial ruin. It's ridiculuos that Crusaders themselves had to opt out of SL because of their problems rather than SL just look at their ground & get the nod from Sky that they want to keep a Welsh team in SL. History has shown that RL does not do well out of the M62 corridor. London, under whatever name you want to use, has been propped up financially by Sky more than any other top flight club for years yet still struggles to get a decent crowd of home fans. I do agree with the licensing system at the moment as it generally brings clubs into SL that can compete. The exception is Crusaders & more thought needs to go into promoting the game away from it's natural habitat before throwing a team together expecting success.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think that rugby league hasn’t really moved on for years.

    Everybody talks about the improvements that super league has made to the sport, summer rugby, salary cap, equal playing field etc. etc.

    But if you look at it with an honest and open mind then it hasn’t improved, it’s just different.

    Playing rugby in summer makes the game faster, but the old winter game was a lot tougher, harder more of a mans game!

    The salary cap has been constantly breeched (even though some clubs haven’t been caught).

    The level playing field is only level for about 4 or 5 clubs, the rest are also-rans.

    Expansion has proved to be a failure in London and in Wales.

    The franchise system is clearly biased and not working.

    So how can we expect investors to put money into our game when it is being run this way? Where is the development going to come from? If you wee a major financial force looking to invest money in a sport, would you choose Wakefield to carry your flag?

    Well done to Crusaders for having the ‘nads’ to admit they weren’t good enough, it’s a pity a few more (including Harlequins Castleford and Wakefield) haven’t got the gumption to do the same.

    All this is saints fault and they should be kicked out of super league as well.

  • Comment number 13.

    The doom and gloom coming out of Crusaders tells me that they shouldn't be in SL. Look at Widnes and how they responded to the challenge. Watch Halifax and see what they do. Positivity and the promise they will sort themselves out and be back in three years is what we need to hear. But we aren't.

    As for franchises - Cats in fifth place wouldn't have happened without them. We'd have three or four yo-yo teams that get promoted then relegated every year. No progress there and we wouldn't have brand new stadiums in a lot of cases. Leigh Sports Village v Hilton Park? No contest.

    But I reckon that Wakey should've been given the boot anyway and Fax let in.

  • Comment number 14.

    Why should Halifax be let in? Just because they have a finished stadium. Which took a decade to get done. They're promises have been no better than all the other teams. They're junior development is probably the biggest problem. Whilst Widnes have maintained a play pathway for juniors to the first team its hard to see where they have. Instead striving for a championship winning team they should have developed a core of young players and retained them, to take into SL. Players like Ben Black, Rob Worrincey etc.. Look good at Championship level but they aren't SL standard. Otherwise SL clubs would have snapped them up. Furthermore, didn't the council contribute to the completion of the stadium? (Is it council owned? - Unsure) Begs the question whether the organisation has the attributes to invest in juniors, whilst maintaining a competitive SL team, develop community links and make profit as a business. Oh yes, other areas of license criteria (Not just facilities). Castleford and Wakefield have had academy champions within the Superleague era and Castleford made profit last year. Wakefield finances are well publicised but have showed profit in the last months. Both clubs have had tens of thousands of kids go through they're community projects last year alone. When the RFL have poor participation figures to present to Sport England, imagine what it could be without these clubs. Not to mention Castleford have a stadium project which is privately run and funded, unlike, Wakefield, Halifax, Leigh, Salford. Unfortunatley delayed by house prices, but has now been resolved with retail and is out their control with everything the club could do, being done. Finally, the last few years Halifax and Leigh (and Salford now) were in SL, they were no bigger than Castleford and Wakefield. Here's another question, if Wakefield were relegated yesterday, would Halifax be whinging about Crusaders and Quins being in? No. Halifax were compared equally alongside existing SL clubs. Their business is operating at championship level. It was a complete no brainer that they would be bottom of the pile. Even there sponsors on other forums said it was unrealistic this time around.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'd like to respond to Don Kidick and ask him why he feels all this is Saints fault and why they should they be kicked out of Superleague? Is there some jealousy here regarding their Superleague success? Or is it that they will soon be the proud single owners of the best stadium in Superleague that is not shared with/owned by a football team? Saints have been great ambassadors for the game!

  • Comment number 16.

    terrible state of affairs. rugby league is destined to­ be confined to its dark and narrow M62 corridors. a­ real shame because it's a great sport that­ doesn't get anything like the recognition it­ deserves.

  • Comment number 17.

    The real reason Crusaders have dropped out is that Wrexham FC is about to do the same thing. Which paves the way for Moss and Co to sell the ground for loads of money to build student flats.

  • Comment number 18.

    Everyone is losing site of what the real issue is. Franchise or Promotion/Relegation arguments are like fighting over beta-max vs laser disc. The fundamental issue is that Rugby League does not exist in a professional format. We have Super League and we have Championship. These formats are just not the same and the owners of the business (the RFL) simply provide no direction to its product owners (the chairmen of each club) as to how the game will progress. As a Leigh and Rugby League fan I don't care what the system is as long as the ruling body provides a clear consistant plan for SUSTAINABILITY. We don't have one and my sport is in complete turmoil in part due to the "vision" of the RFL being entirely dependent on 1 customer (sky).

  • Comment number 19.

    Am I missing something here? There are a set number of criteria where the 'box had to be ticked' and the best proposals were assessed from this process. The RFL were very cagey on Look North last night when pressed by Harry Grashion and could not give a categorical reason why Halifax didn't make it. Surely just bring the documentation out into the public domain and then we, as fax fans, can see whether the decision is fully auditable and transparent or, as we cynically believe, it was a stitch up. Past history, that Wakefield are clinging too, was not a criteria and thus, with them failing at least 2 it doesn't seem right. But it the RFL can be open and show us where we went wrong then we will have to accept the decision. I won't hold my breath! Nick the Fax fan

  • Comment number 20.

    The RFL set the rules and criteria for clubs to follow but then when they made the dicision on the super league licences threw the rule book out of the window.
    Halifax have had a raw deal and Wakefield can thank there lucky stars.
    Come on RFL play the game.

  • Comment number 21.

    Another Richard Lewis fudge. He is effectively saying the Wakefield bid was better than the Halifax one. I support neither club, and have seen neither bid so can't comment.

    It really is the end for Crusaders, any decent talent will be picked off, gates will dwindle further without the SL draw.

    Expect a voluntary administration by the Directors any day now.

  • Comment number 22.

    I can confirm that the players and admin staffof the Crusaders did NOT know prior to the 11.00am decision. The players then DID NOT train as to upset and confused. RL has grown from nil participents in Wrexham 2 years ago to a sound youth development and adult community games (many held at the Crusaders training facilities). This is such a shame for North Wales sport

  • Comment number 23.

    Crusader finally did the honourable think and pull out of the bidding, I expected them to get a licence and then go straight back into administration!!!

    They will finish bottom of super league this season therefore with or without relegation justice has been done

  • Comment number 24.

    @Theres-nobody-better what was the impact on said same development in the south of wales when crusaders moved? for me they were building nicely pre SL push in Bridgend and things seemed to be on the up. The RFL moved too quickly to push a welsh team into SL and that is what has broken the crusaders dream. Sustainability comes from steady growth not a huge initial push. The same tactic was used by Horwich RMI in football. They moved to Leigh and had a huge push which for a few years was working ok in particular due to a good result in the cup against Fulham. But that was never going to last unless the people of Leigh continued to support a brand new sport for the town. They didn't and now that club has basically died off despite spending a good few years in the conference.
    I have no issue with a pro rugby team in the north AND south of Wales if they can get the support and build properly to be in a league/division that best fits. SL does not fit an expansion team of less than 10 years existence. They cannot sustain the initial rush of novelty and all the hard work that good people put in to create a community around the club are completely wasted. Long term plans to bring expansion into THE GAME not into SL.

  • Comment number 25.

    Im not sure those who have commented above about 2 up and 2 down system have really taken into account the vast differences between the Championship and SL. The difference ist exactly men against boys but its not a million miles away. The differece i staffing and facilities required are huge and we would end up with yo yo clubs who have to recruit one year on a budget of circa 2million and 400k the next season when they get relegated. Doesnt exactly allow for building anything sustainable - other than debt.

    I think the licence system works however its the constant need/push to expand and the short-sighted nature of the way the game is forced into areas with no real support that constantly puts the egg on the RL faces. I feel for Crusaders as it was too much too soon and has ended up with embarresment for all.

  • Comment number 26.

    There has to be promotion to and from the Super League to make the Championship worthwhile as a competition. Instead of guaranteed up and down why not have an end of season playoff. The bottom club in the Super League plays the top 3 in the Championship and the Northern Rail Cup Winners (or the fourth placed club in the league if the NR cup winners already in the top 3) in a 5 team tournament that is heavily biased towards the existing Super League club, like the complicated formats we've had previously and in the NRL. That way the Championship clubs would have something to aim at that was a realistic chance of promotion, it would also focus the minds of the Super League clubs to avoid last place, but given them a significant chance of remaining in the Super League if they can string the results together. Finally, the winning club of this mini tournament must meet the Level C criteria to be promoted. If not, then they go into the pot automatically when the franchise licences are reviewed every three years, and they stand to gain automatic elevation then should the improve to meet the criteria, and existing clubs fail to meet the criteria. Hideously complicated, but Rugby League wouldn't be Rugby League if the off the pitch detail was a million more times complicated than the on the pitch detail.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm behind the license system for the moment, it's too early to throw it out. But if the RFL don't publish all the results and allow full scrutiny of the reasons for awarding the licenses they're immediately opened up to accusations of double-standards, incompetence and dishonesty.

    We routinely laud our game over wendyball but if Richard Lewis doesn't spill the beans then he can consider himself in the same category as Sepp Blatter in my opinion.

  • Comment number 28.

    Good article George, there is no doubt the RFL have some explaining to do, a great season on the pitch undermined by poor administration. Still, with recent farces at FIFA and RFU, the RFL are keeping good company. If I was a Halifax fan I would be as livid as Widnes fans a few years ago. I also feel very sorry for loyal Crusaders fans.

    It also shows what a flawed project Crusaders was from the start; Welsh RL was ticking along modestly, but quite nicely thank you very much until the fatal promotion to Super League.

    The RFL really need to look at themselves and then specifically at NRL franchise criteria; don't have all the facts but I think tenders have to be backed up by structure of feeder clubs across all age levels established for years; this is what the Crusaders project should have been about all along. Then get the best lads competing in UK wide under-20 club competition like the Toyota cup down under; only then should clubs think about submitting a credible SL application. If it slows down expansion, tough.

    Understand the principle of licensing but prefer a two legged play off between bottom SL and top Championship 1, this should generate plenty of interest. If the Championship side are not good enough to win through on aggregate so be it. Worst case: if Championship side wins play off but finances and 'licensing criteria' prove not good enough to survive SL then the club gains some kudos and some extra cash to boot.

    PS. After this debacle, can we now reform GB for internationals until we have genuinely representative talent to represent all home nations, please?

    Cheers

  • Comment number 29.

    Lets not forget the good that the Super League era has brought the licencing has forced new stadiums which will put Salford, St Helens Warrington etc in good stead for the next 100 years. The salary cap has been a success. its stopped alot of bankrupcy (Wakefield/Cru apart), imagine how bad it would have been !!

    However...the licensing does needs review. Maybe the promoted club should be given 1 years grace from relegation? The economic climate means no more development sides promoted direct into SL, development sides need to be supported - but in the lowers leagues...from small Acorns !! However, it must not be forced. Grow geniune teams the 'heartland' supporters will have no reason to moan about, support them with money - maybe in a natinal development division three - but the players must be local, no convicts.

    Its a shame given the good development work completed in Wales - that MUST continue. The Welsh love RL, they love Rugby - simple as. Maybe in anothe 10 years.....

    As for Halifax...get loads more punters in, fill that great stadium, get the people of your town to show RL that they MUST be SL. Raise the bar, don't moan - exactly like Widnes have done.

    Still RL fans love a good moan, can't wait for the Rugby Leaguer letters page next week - it might take up the whole paper !!

  • Comment number 30.

    ps - great article!

  • Comment number 31.

    Weighing the pros and cons, I would say the licensing has been a qualified success. Removing the threat of relegation, coupled with the salary cap, has led to greater quality and greater competition, and as the article rightly underlines, greater reliance on the development of young players.

    I remember when Wigan dominated for years and yes they were champions last year, but that was their first for years, and if you take a look at the Super League table as it stands now, you have Catalans in 5th place. Let me repeat that - Catalans Dragons, a French team, is in 5th place! This provincial, northern sport is faring quite well in the south of France thank you very much and it would not have been possible without the franchise system and the salary cap.

    That said, the sport has to grow organically into new areas. The Crusaders franchise has failed for the same reason Paris did, and the attempt to keep a London-based franchise on life-support by grafting it onto Halequins appears doomed to die a slow death. Crusaders in particular should have been left to develop slowly in the Championship and given time to gather a local base of support instead of being granted a Super League franchise too early. Expansion takes time. When it comes around for applications for franchises again, perhaps a bid from a Cumbrian team, or even Toulouse, should seriously be considered?

    Rugby League is never going to be a massively popular sport in this country. If removing relegation is the only way to keep the sport alive, using the lower league clubs as little more than breeding grounds for young talent and feeder clubs to the Super League teams, so be it. If the salary cap gradually promotes equality between most of the Super League teams and greatly increases the excitement of the competition, even better.

  • Comment number 32.

    There should be a balance between licensing and automatic P/R.

    Yearly license reviews are good, but the bottom placed C ranked club should be relegated if there is a Championship club that exceeds some criteria than the bottom C ranked Super League Club.

  • Comment number 33.

    This just confirms what the rest of the country already knows, Rugby League is a dying sport.

    10/20 years back nearly every Union fan would at least watch the international matches and could at least name most of the top players. The superior fitness of League players was it's big selling point, a contrast to the mauling tactical play in Union. However as professionalism has taken hold of Union it now possesses that level of fitness as well as the tactical element.

    League is still more exciting but it is a contrived excitement based on the flawed premise that you must force something within 6 tackles.

    League had the chance to grow but has been half hearted about it. Any expansion team in a new area needs at least 10 years in order to solidify itself. Any numpty can see the massive impact that Crusaders has had in Wales when it comes to schools and youth play, thousands of kids now regularly play the sport, they were going to be the bedrock of a successful franchise in the area. But SL bottled it, they did not and were not prepared to wait and now those schools and kids will simply turn away from the code and all the effort will be lost.

    The path they should have taken was obvious to everyone. No matter where the team was based it had to play regular games in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Wrexham and the Valleys to make it a team of Wales. Funding should have been provided to bring in top Welsh players from both codes, even if they were past their best. The kit should have been Red. Several regional clubs should have been set up or linked just like the Scorpions to provide teams for local populaces to watch when the Crusaders were elsewhere and a solid player base as well.

    All so simple to see yet ignored by the powers that be.

  • Comment number 34.

    This just confirms what the rest of the country already knows, Rugby League is a dying sport.

    10/20 years back nearly every Union fan would at least watch the international matches and could at least name most of the top players. The superior fitness of League players was it's big selling point, a contrast to the mauling tactical play in Union. However as professionalism has taken hold of Union it now possesses that level of fitness as well as the tactical element.

    League is still more exciting but it is a contrived excitement based on the flawed premise that you must force something within 6 tackles.

    League had the chance to grow but has been half hearted about it. Any expansion team in a new area needs at least 10 years in order to solidify itself. Any numpty can see the massive impact that Crusaders has had in Wales when it comes to schools and youth play, thousands of kids now regularly play the sport, they were going to be the bedrock of a successful franchise in the area. But SL bottled it, they did not and were not prepared to wait and now those schools and kids will simply turn away from the code and all the effort will be lost.

    The path they should have taken was obvious to everyone. No matter where the team was based it had to play regular games in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Wrexham and the Valleys to make it a team of Wales. Funding should have been provided to bring in top Welsh players from both codes, even if they were past their best. The kit should have been Red. Several regional clubs should have been set up or linked just like the Scorpions to provide teams for local populaces to watch when the Crusaders were elsewhere and a solid player base as well.

    All so simple to see yet ignored by the powers that be.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    On one comment it states Castleford not good enough for Superleague. Finished 07th 09th and presently 06th in League in Semi Final of Cup. All this despite injuries to numerous forwards. And what is the best of this is the number of home grown players in the team. Plus the 20s and 18s near the top of their leagues and the number of players on loan from our academy sides. Only blot is the ground issue which will be resolved shortly.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think the Crusaders shows more about how the sport shouldn't try to expand by relying on individuals who haven't appeared to have a long-term interest in rugby league. After all, the original owner owned the Celtic Warriors RU side, and when that was closed down, set up the Celtic Crusaders RL club. When a football club goes into administration, I don't read about how it shows football is dying. It doesn't mean rugby league can't expand or is a dying sport, or that licensing is a bad idea. The lessons of this episode have to be learnt and new clubs have to be built from the ground up rather than relying on the whims of individual owners.

  • Comment number 38.

    Oooh look everyone, #34, another Yawnion fan lost on his way to Twikkers to watch players walk between touchlines, pausing only to put their heads up each others b*tt*ms from time to time.

    Opta stats:
    League: ball in play for an average 50-55 mins
    Yawnion: ball in play for an average 30-35 mins.

    Now work out the value for money of your 'Twickenham experience'.


  • Comment number 39.

    From an outsiders perspective who is not a RL fan but lives slap bang in the middle of 3 RL clubs and can't avoid this on the local news (Harry G is a legend):

    1) It is a joke that promotion and relegation are not allowed. Wakey can now sit back and not worry for 2 years about fear of demotion. Why should any team in the Championship bother playing?

    2) The governing body needs to actively stop the M62 bias if the sport is to really grow. There are plenty of young decent RU players down south who could switch codes.

    I admire the attempt to copy the American Football franchise system, but these Franchises are free to move nationally. Maybe the governers need to think bigger. If a multi millionaire investor bought Wakefield and took them to Reading would that be allowed??

    PS. Senior should have checked the clubs plans before he signed for them.

  • Comment number 40.

    #34, rugby league has been 'dying' ever since it broke away from RU according to you lot!

    Funny that, it looks in pretty good shape to me when i watched the quarter finals of the cup last weekend!! I'll not bother going to Saints new 18,000 capacity ground next year or queue up for semi final tickets, shall i!!!

    Wasps lost £3.2m last year, i'd suggest it was them that are closer to 'dying'!

  • Comment number 41.

    Firstly Mr Reilly I would like you to explain to me why it is a blow to Rugby League that Wakefield will continue in the top flight? Wakefield Trinity got into the Super League in 1998, have never finished bottom or have been relegated, a difference I feel it is just to point out considering Huddersfield finished bottom on three consecutive occasions. Furthermore Wakefield have also been in the play offs on two occasions, only been denied a trip to Old Trafford in 2004 by some dubious decisions away at Wigan. Wakefield have one of the best community programmes.

    The only issue with Wakefield's bid is the stadium and the finances. I would first like to point at that had the rugby league removed Richardson from the club when he entered IVA, which it has every right if not an obligation to do, then the whole administration scenario could have been avoided. Secondly the RFL bailed out Crusaders, it did not bail out Wakefield, something doesn't seem quite just there. Secondly in regards to the ground Belle Vue does need redeveloping or a new home needs finding, but we are not the only club in this position and it is not possible for all clubs to groundshare with other teams. Furthermore I would also like to point out that the Jungle is simply a smaller version of Belle Vue with flood lights that aren't adequate.

    To conclude everybody seems to have presumed Wakefield were out. I'll admit I was included in this. But in the words of the impartial administrator who adjudged the bids, Wakefield's was far from the worse, therefore perhaps everyone should stop wishing to see the back of Wakefield and look at the cold hard facts in a unbiased manner. Personally I would like to see promotion and relegation return. But I am glad both Castleford and Wakefield continue in the top flight, if these two teams got the same backing from the RFL as Quins and Celtic, they would both be in strong positions challenging for honours.

  • Comment number 42.

    Some excellent comments guys. Is it fair that we are questionning the process off the back of one debacle? Perhaps if Widnes had got their licence 3 years ago instead of Crusaders they'd be a stronger club now and we wouldn't be having this argument. Is expansion rather than licensing therefore the problem?
    re #41 the blow to RL is the loss of the RFL's expansion side given the big investment in it, not the preservaton of Wakefield's status. And the surname is Riley - as per big letters at top of page ;) !

  • Comment number 43.

    well it certainly seems that expansion cannot be forced especially with limited funding. superleague is a high maintenance monster and what we see on the field every week is only the tip of the iceberg.

    spreading out of league's heartlands to reach superleague level is proving much more difficult than the rfl would like to admit. the physical and financial demands are colossal. there are just not enough quality players and sugar daddies are very thin on the ground.

    the potential is perhaps there for the equally entertaining but financially more modest championship level rugby. but the jump from there to superleague is another thing altogether.

    water finds its own level and rugby league is no exception. the game is over 100 years old and for whatever reasons has only prospered in cumbria, lancashire and yorkshire in this country. its hardnose 'northern' cult status only serves to hinder the games' development and the crusaders' demise is a sobering slap in the face for the rfl's ambitions of spreading the game an impressive 35 miles south west of widnes. so, where next guv'nor?

  • Comment number 44.

    Fantastic article George, I would just pick you up on one point though, you say

    "We cannot blame the RFL's hierarchy for the financial plight of the Crusaders. "

    But I would argue that the RFL are wholly to blame for this, they awarded a licence to the South Wales based Celtic Crusaders, based on a theoretical fan base, and finances, after the first season the owner realised it wasnt the "Cash Cow" he was hoping for so pulled the plug, to save face, rather than removing their licence the RFL relocated the team to that other hotbed of Rugby League....Wrexham!
    After a further year they went bust, only to be bailed out by the RFL, who apparently secured money they had lend against the Racecourse Ground (£750,000 supposedly)
    We are now approaching the end of their 3rd year in existence, and the players are left in limbo, no pension payments made, no wages potentially, and no jobs.
    I feel the RFL promoted them way too quickly, and this is the result, and therefore the fault of the RFL

  • Comment number 45.

    There is a silver lining here for Hull KR. Now the Crusaders imports have been declared non quote, HKR can now potentially field a full X111 of antipodean players rather than being restricted to only 9

  • Comment number 46.

    Stupid comment Aftertherabbits, Hull KR will probably have more local players than most of the other teams next season. In fact their are 8 Hull-born players in tomorrow's squad against Huddersfield.

  • Comment number 47.

    See Wrexham FC also in a mess, hope for the sake of the people of N Wales that they don't lose both sports - they were great hosts on my visit. Hope Cru continue in Championship - the Cru fans have enjoyed RL an have proved they want it - it just needs time to grow...properly

  • Comment number 48.

    re #38

    As Peter Fox once said to me ....

    "Rugby Union is the only game where the crowd handle the ball more than the players " :)

  • Comment number 49.

    and re #33

    regarding the "contrived" 6 tackles..is NFL contrived to have 4 attempts to gain 10 yards ?

  • Comment number 50.

    As an expat Trinity fan I was delighted by the news that Trinity (never really think of them as the Wildcats) will remain in Super League.

    I still closely follow the game on Sky Sports and on line and listen to all views regarding RL from a wide variety of people and what is so obvious is that the majority of people outside the M62 corridor do not really care one iota about RL, especially in Wales and London even big Rugby Union supporters whom I know watch every game of RU are not really interested in Rugby League, they may watch an occasional game on TV.

    In the RL heartlands I suspect the opposite applies and there is nothing wrong this, this is not my stance I hasten to add. I feel that the RL should sit up and smell the coffee and realise expansion is not that important maybe they should focus on Batley and Barrow as opposed to Wrexham and London

    Why do the RL feel they need to be an expansive Sport?

    People play RL in many countries around the world but on a pure social level which is fantastic and that’s how it should be it’s a game like playing squash, golf a hobby for the majority of people.

    Many other Sports flourish without trying to conquer the world look at Gaelic Football massive crowds in Ireland can’t see it taking off in a big way in Oldham or Doncaster for example.

    I think that Licensing has brought significant improvements in some areas but without Promotion or Relegation many games have no real meaning and the smaller clubs like Featherstone should have a chance to eventually be in Super League (if you had to have at least 50% home grown players they would have a good chance) based results on the pitch.

    I remember the Wakefield Featherstone Derby games on New Years Day as a fabulous way to clear your head and start the year.

    RL is a minority Sport but a fantastic one, its parochial it’s in your blood and why try and make it something its never going to be.

    I look forward watching the games on SKY and hopefully seeing Trinity win a few more.

  • Comment number 51.

    You only have to look at Wales' success in the European competitions this last few years to see the impact that Crusaders have had; now playing in the Four Nations in lieu of France, this year.

    Its quite right that a new club gets some protection to establish themselves, and some indulgence from the RFL - a minimum stay, so to speak, to allow themselves to become established.

    Expansion: Perhaps they should look at inviting the top non-Superleague clubs from each of England, Wales and France to compete in play-offs against the lowest Superleague club that is not in its first 'probationary' three year period. Perhaps a big incentive to drive the development of Championship clubs in France and Wales...

    I think Sky / Superleague does a poor job of selling Superleague overseas. Here in Malaysia, I get two or three NRL games a week, State of Origin, all the Super-XVs, one or two English RFU games, one or two French Top XIV games, but no Superleague, no Challenge Cup.

    The only other rugby league fan that comments on our local forum is also as Scottish as me, by the way, but he supports Hull. I'm a Wireman.

    SC

  • Comment number 52.

    As a rugby fan here in Toulouse (I go to both codes), I feel that the best thing the RFL could do to aid the expansion of RL here is to persuade french television to broadcast it, any of it.
    I don't know whether it's the power of the french rugby union or the short-sightedness of the television executives but we get absolutely none from anywhere, on any channel.

  • Comment number 53.

    M. RougeEtNoir
    a) I am sure you will et coverage somewhere if you look (and pay!) for it
    b) Your French rugby union does a great job of selling their game - we in Malaysia get one or two games every week. We get the same from the English rugby union; no Magner's League, no Superleague, but plenty of NRL. THere is a lot of crap on Eurosport which is clearly there just because it is cheap (would anyone really watch arm-wrestling? Presumably all the viewer figures are passed-out drunk from earlier shows); so the French rugby league (or superleague, or Magners league) could get coverage on eurosport if they wanted it, I think.

    SC

  • Comment number 54.

    Read over these comments and it led me to register because there's some trolling or out and out unmodded comments, George do you actually read the comments? are you a journalist? somebody questioned comment #12, you didn't, later the poster of the comment commented again #35, me being thick i don't understand either post, please explain to the lay man what he meant, obv you read the comments and approved them to be here

  • Comment number 55.

    There are a lot of fans who feel badly let down by the Crusaders mangement, RL in North Wales has always been quite popular and when the Crusaders got to the playoffs in their fist season at wrexham everyone was hoping for a good future for the game in our area and there was a real excitement about the game. Unfortunatley the useless and greedy senior mamagement at Wrexham have ruined the club and once again sent North Wales professional sport into the doldrums. Wrexham FC are also in the same plight as they have the same management. What a disaster!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Thanks george your reply made it alll clear for me, thanks all
    Still explain to the masses why:

    I think that rugby league hasn’t really moved on for years.

    Everybody talks about the improvements that super league has made to the sport, summer rugby, salary cap, equal playing field etc. etc.

    But if you look at it with an honest and open mind then it hasn’t improved, it’s just different.

    Playing rugby in summer makes the game faster, but the old winter game was a lot tougher, harder more of a mans game!

    The salary cap has been constantly breeched (even though some clubs haven’t been caught).

    The level playing field is only level for about 4 or 5 clubs, the rest are also-rans.

    Expansion has proved to be a failure in London and in Wales.

    The franchise system is clearly biased and not working.

    So how can we expect investors to put money into our game when it is being run this way? Where is the development going to come from? If you wee a major financial force looking to invest money in a sport, would you choose Wakefield to carry your flag?

    Well done to Crusaders for having the ‘nads’ to admit they weren’t good enough, it’s a pity a few more (including Harlequins Castleford and Wakefield) haven’t got the gumption to do the same.

    All this is saints fault and they should be kicked out of super league as well.
    RE:SAINTS
    A team that have constantly cheated the salary cap and got away with token punishments because they have the RFL in their back pocket.

    You shouldn’t even need to ask why they are to blame for everything that is wrong in super league, you should just know.
    hmmmm i don't know :/
    is that trolling / unmodded comments or other?

 

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