24th November 2018, 12:01
ANDREW CHALMERS: 'JUST WHO IS RUNNING RUGBY LEAGUE THESE DAYS?'
Read Andrew Chalmers' column in partnership with this week's Telegraph and Argus.
Just who is running Rugby League these days? Frankly I simply don’t know. This week I woke up to newspaper talk and BBC coverage of “golden points” being introduced next season after being decided upon by the 12 Super League clubs. Apparently, a statement issued on their behalf spoke of a series of exciting innovations. Reference has been made to “shot clocks” and reductions in the number of substitutions. One trade paper even explained that other rule changes were already decided upon? Like politics, although not so much this year, rugby league has a silly season. A time when the media outlets have space and time to fill and while there are no games or internationals to cover or comment upon. Transfers and player movements have usually been completed by now, as clubs like ours go back into preseason training. So there are papers and air time to fill, and not necessarily the stories to fill them. Hence you get silly season, with speculative or uncorroborated exclusives.
But actually is there something more sinister going on this time? This was a formal announcement by the Super League clubs, and the only caveat to the RFL’s governing body role, was in the BBC report which said the Super League clubs had asked the RFL, the games alleged governing body to “clear the way”. So it’s not a done deal then? Well who knows, because I, as an RFL club owner have no idea. Up until the announcement, I haven’t been consulted and I am pretty sure my fellow Championship and League 1 Chairman haven’t been consulted. Which begs the question, why has anything been announced if it has not been actually agreed? Well actually Robert Elstone and his Super League Clubs have of course got form for this arrogant behaviour. Remember earlier this year they held a press conference and announced that the league structure was changing, without any consultation. There then followed months and months of discourse and disquiet before enough pressure was applied, to the hapless and the helpless, to get them to succumb. What a way to run a sport! Arrogant and disrespectful to the game.
In fact is what we are actually witnessing the wholesale retreat by the RFL from actually running the spot in this country? When a private limited company of private shareholders can suddenly announce what is happening to the sport and what rules we will be playing under, rather than the RFL, then the governing body’s authority to run the sport is doomed. What the Super League clubs are doing is telling the RFL what will happen, they obviously believe it is their call and they have called it. And not a squeak from the complicit or complacent governing body Board, And if you want to know why this is unacceptable, totally unacceptable, we at the Bulls have built our squad around the current substitution rules of 10 interchanges. Why wouldn’t we? No one has consulted with us. It affects recruitment, the type and style of athlete you hire, how many minutes the bigger lads can play etc etc. The ramifications are numerous. Now I am not saying changes shouldn’t be contemplated or discussed; of course they should. Let’s face it, the Super League’s latest unique initiatives are based around copying the NRL!! I assume they aren’t introducing the two referee system, because they don’t have enough quality referees, and the Super League clubs don’t want to pay for them!! It is the arrogance, once again of matters being determined by private shareholders owning a minority of RFL clubs, to be dictating the agenda.
To be fair, we are not privy to the conversations, dialogue or discussions by Elstone and his RFL counterpart Ralph Rimmer, so who knows. Well 20 odd Championship clubs certainly don’t. It is of course up to the Championship clubs to muscle up and refuse to be pushed around like this, but regrettably the form from some of my colleagues, in this department, is patchy. So they will have to sit down quietly and suck it up, be dictated to and subjugated. Yes Sir, No sir, three bags full Sir. Of course all the news about rule changes, or potential rules changes is a pretty transparent diversionary tactic from the real issue befalling our sport. Where is all the new commercial income, sponsorship and new money the sport was promised when the 12 clubs broke away from the RFL. You remember the line being peddled; the Super League clubs need their own executive to drive the league sport forward, to make the commercial gains which would then trickle down to the rest of the league. Well let’s see them chaps. Let’s see the new money you promised. Last week it was reported that the Challenge Cup did not have a sponsor. What an outrageous state of affairs. The sport in spending more than ever on senior, expensive executives and one of our most prestigious properties is unsold.
Who is to blame for this utterly unsatisfactory state of affairs. Well we are, the clubs. We have tolerated this inept and absent leadership for too long. There is more to being a chairman than handing out trophies and writing welcome pages in the programmes. I ponder whether this current RFL Board have given away the authority to run the sport in this country, and chosen to do so for perhaps a more peaceful life. The RFL Council meets next month for its half yearly meeting of shareholders and some searching questions need to be asked. Having presided over a £2M loss last year, we have been promised a restoration to profitability. Let’s hope the promises are kept. More profoundly the members will be asking about the cost of the RFL Board of Directors. Last year, we, the membership paid over a million pounds in remuneration to the RFL Board for the privilege of them running up a £2M loss.
But since then the Board have given away any responsibility for the Super League. The RFL CEO now plays no part in the running of the Super League. The Super League CEO is not line managed by the RFL Board so effectively, the RFL Board have given away half of the sport they formally had responsibility for. Half of their responsibility. Well that maybe fine if they halve their pay!!! We expect the Board and RFL executive to add value to the game, and in doing so, grow the sport. It is clear to me and to the many colleague chairmen, that enough is enough. Many have lost the will to fight for what is right, choosing to keep their heads down and live off the scraps of the Super League table. But I am not one of them. This sport is not owned by 12 private owners. It’s owned by all the stakeholders. Fans included.