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ANDREW CHALMERS: LEAGUE 1 RACE IS ALIVE AND KICKING

28th July 2018, 10:00

ANDREW CHALMERS: LEAGUE 1 RACE IS ALIVE AND KICKING

Read Chairman, Andrew Chalmers' column in partnership with the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.

What a great day for League 1 rugby league at Odsal last Sunday, a wonderful, colourful and atmospheric afternoon. Unfortunately, the Bulls came up on the wrong side of the result but we nevertheless proved to the rugby league world that there absolutely is life in the League 1 competition.

It’s great to see two teams coming together striving to get the win, each trying as hard as they can. As I said in my note last week, York are a club on the up and are very well run, with a new stadium on the way and a good local and civic economy to support professional sport. We are still on top of the competition table, but with only the points difference separating the Bulls from York with 8 games to go. It is an often used clichés but we both now face 8 Cup Finals in a row. Every single win and point scored matters for the Bulls as we commence our run down the back straight. It feels like a horse race, we are in front with 800 metres to go, everyone has commenced their runs. Hold on to your hats! You can’t help but feel this race will go down to the wire.

Everyone will be scanning the fixture list and assessing who has got the harder run in and what points difference would be acceptable, but the facts are that virtually everyone turns up in this league ready to play and sometimes, despite supporters frustrations, results have to be ground out. We travel to London Skolars on Saturday before facing Whitehaven also next Saturday week at Odsal Stadium. Every match and every week will be full on and I assure everyone we won’t die wondering. Every game is a must win in game in order to earn the coveted 1st place to achieve automatic promotion to the Championship competition.   

I would like to thank all those who graced the terraces and stands last week. I can’t remember Odsal looking so full or more colourful on a sunny and warm summer afternoon in my 18 months in Bradford.   The clubs attendance of 6,441 was the best in League 1 this season and better than both Super League attendances at Castleford and Wakefield this week. Lots are made of attendances, sometimes too much, but with the RFL conducting a league review to assess whether all clubs are actually delivering enough in return for their central distribution, they are likely to remain key indicators of the value of a club to the sport. The hard truth is, that if not enough people care about something, it ceases to exist.

I was determined to stay clear of politics this week, but one attendance that did raise an eyebrow was the 16,000 reported at the DW Stadium. I wasn’t there in person but watched the TV screens and was amazed at the empty red and blue seats in three of the stands. In fact, the only stand that looked full was the visiting stand with joyous Saints fans. The only reason I raise this point is that one on the apparent criticisms of the current competition system is the allegation the fixtures aren’t known with certainty at the start of the season. Well, this one was and the Wigan marketing staff had had 8 or 9 months to sell it. To be clear Saints are so far in front, I recognize some Wigan fans may not be attracted to go, so my comment is not a criticism of the number who did attend; I’m simply calling out the fixture uncertainty as the flag of convenience, it undoubtedly is. Anyway, that’s enough of that.

The RFL members AGM was held at Lincolnshire this week, under the watch full eye of the RFL Chairman Brian Barwick, his board, the new CEO Ralph Rimmer, and the league clubs representatives and affiliates. I am pleased to report a NIL injury toll from the meeting, as all the participants are clearly more keyboard ninja’s rather than front-line defenders. All except Ralph Rimmer that is who now appears to have grown two feet taller than when I last saw him. Perhaps a side effect of being anointed as the key person to lead the game forward. Still, we pause with interest as the last rounds of the season are played out, waiting for the white smoke to puff out of the RFL conclave that is Red Hall, indicating some sort of result.

Unfortunately, we also saw the disappointing news that the Leigh owner Derek Beaumont has decided that the cost of maintaining Leigh Centurions has become too much for him, in particular with regard to their failure to make the middle 8’s this year. I certainly feel for Beaumont who is a likable guy who has thrown a lot of money and effort at the Leigh club. Good luck pal, I’ll miss the jousting with Marwan Koukash in the media. Another colourful personality sadly lost from the game.

It certainly has created a huge stir in the player movements with Hull KR leaping onto the wounded carcass with Neil Hudgell, throwing some new found gold bars seemingly at every player!! I’m sure he’s done the salary cap numbers, but it looks like an awful lot of high-value players are suddenly heading east to ply their trade in the City of Hull. I’m sure the eyebrows and calculators will be going flat out.

For our team, we will be roaring down the M1 Saturday to fight out round 19 against the London Skolars. Kick off is at 3pm. We need to start well and start faster than last week. Hope you can join us in the capital, but for those of you who can’t make the trip join into the ProperSport coverage with BullsLive. COYB. #jointhestampede.