Once again I need to apologise for being away for a while. With my new job and moving to Princeton I have a lot on my plate and time is a precious commodity. Also I am preparing for a job interview! Anyway as we all know, last week the venues for the group stages were announced, yet we still await on the semis and final announcement. Much debate has gone on about which city should get it and I have been thinking about it and so thought I would put in my two bobs worth. Also an interesting thing i found searching through various League websites, well two of the USA ones anyway and found, well an anomaly.
As I commented last week, the venues announced for the 2013 world cup are very heartland dominated. There is now a debate on where the semi finals and final will be played. Much debate has been going on about that if London does not gat a game that it will be a failing of the organisers to maximise the game. I feel this way as well – well felt anyway. On my drive from Princeton to Champaign last week (14 hours) I got thinking about this and wanted to share my thoughts on the pro’s and con’s on some of the places I would consider for games I I were the RLIF/RFL.
Before we get onto anything we need to remember that we don’t know all the exact details of the different proposals the venues put it. We can make assumptions about who, what, where and how cities want to host games. So that is all I can do here. Is make educated guesses. So lets start.
Everyone keeps jumping up and down about London getting a game. The questions is, do they deserve to get a game? London has always been a struggle for the sport in England. I am not saying it should not be there and persisted with, but on the face of it for the World Cup what does London have to offer the sport?
Pro – Its the Nations capital and considered the “Spiritual Heart” of the sport with Wembley Stadium. The Challenge Cup is played there and there is a professional team with the London Broncos and also a semi-pro team with the London Skolars as well as numerous amateur teams in the area. It makes sense that one of the big games, preferably the final, be played in the capital. With London being a semi-fringe city for Rugby League it also can be considered that having a game there could be a great way to get the ex-pat Kiwis and Aussies in on the act. Imagine if the final is an England v Australia or England v New Zealand match. Also on the off chance, its only a short trip from France, or Wales if they make the finals. So their fans are able to travel.
Con – For rugby league fans from the North it can be expensive believe it or not to travel to London. With a final at Wembley Stadium annually there, would they be willing to make two trips to go and support their nations, or if their nations is not there would the travel at all? The London teams seem to struggle for fans as well, home grown or ex-pat. With this in mind would those fans all 3-4000 of them be willing to turn out and bring friends to fill out Wembley? Certainly a couple years ago in the 4-nations the Stoop was filled with 12,000 for the Australia v NZ game, but again 12,000 double even triple that number is less than half the capacity of Wembley and would look terrible on TV. If England is not involved or Australia or New Zealand then it could be even less.
In fact would Wembley be the stadium at all. There are several large stadiums in the are including Rugby Union’s Twickenham and it certainly is not unheard of that League uses this stadium. All in All, does the RFL/RLIF take the risk with a game in London?
Manchester in some ways falls into the same category as London. It has a large annual game with the Super League Final. This could go against it certainly for the final but maybe a semi.
Pro – As I mentioned, Manchester does have an annual game with the Super League Grand Final, it has a near full house at Old Trafford every year and its considered one of the main pilgrimages of all English Rugby League fans. There are several large stadiums in the area where a game can be played and Manchester has several old and distinguished teams in the area. Salford of course play in the Super League while there is a whole host of other teams like Oldham and Rochdale in the area. Rugby League up there is alive and well and remember that places like Warrington, Wigan, Widnes St Helens and a host of other big clubs are all within close distance of getting there. There is a decent ex-pat population there as well so any match involving the antipodeans will also attract fans. Sitting in the north, Manchester sits in a good spot in the heartlands for the Finals.
Con – The big con for Manchester is the fact that this would be a second big game in Old Trafford and the question is would Manchester United, a powerful Soccer team, allow that to happen. In the past they have complained about “Rugby” players tearing up the pitch. The other question is similar for London, would fans be willing to travel to Manchester for a second time in the year? Granted it closer than London, but what if on the off chance you have the French or another team in the finals, the fans there have an expensive trip up and would that pull any of the ex-pat fans to the game?
A game in Manchester will really test the loyalty and passion of Rugby League fans in England.
OK, So three spots for the finals, I have looked at two cities and stadiums, which leaves a third venue. Where would that be? How about Bradford! Yes your read right, Odsal in Bradford. Think about it the RFL recently purchased the stadium, does this mean that we will finally get out Wembley of the north?
Pro – Bradford is one of the original Rugby League clubs from the 1895 split. It has a long and proud history and Odsal hold the record rugby league crowd from the 1953 for the Challenge Cup replay. Bradford sits right in the middle of Rugby league heartland with Leeds, Castleford, Hull, Huddersfield and a host of other Championship teams in the regions. This is a rugby league hotspot and I can see that fans can flock to the place to see a game. However there is a proviso on this. The stadium obviously has to be upgraded and I think that the RFL buying the stadium recently could be a precursor to this. I would not be surprised if an announcement along these lines is made soon. We may finally get a Wembley of the north.
Con – Are there too many heartland cities. Do we need to have the large games in places where they will have more of an impact than Bradford. How willing would Aussie and Kiwi fans be to travel there as well as French and Welsh fans. Its the safe option, but is the safe option the right option.
Certainly straight out off the bench, this possibly makes sense and don’t be surprised to see an upgrade of the stadium. But is this too safe an option?
While all focus is on Manchester and London I got thinking, where else would I have a game that could make a large impact, out of the heartlands yet allow of a great trip for fans to spend the extra cash to travel and also for fans in London to get there – Paris!
Pro – Why not? Paris is close to London and has its own ex-pat population. There is a small rugby league fan base there, but French fans will be willing to travel particularly if the national team is playing. There are enough large stadiums in Paris to be able to host a game as well. Flight from the north of UK are common as well and it may be enough of an incentive for English fans to spend the extra money to fly to Paris, since its more of an exotic destination like Barcelona or Marseille where Catalans have has games in the past.
Con – Price is the biggest issue. It can be expensive for fans from the North of England and South France to get to Paris and hotels will be expensive, then again this will be an issue in all the major cities that are being considered. Will the Parisians come out, with their soccer and Union bias, is there enough of an interest in Rugby League to justify the game there? Will any of the ex-pat community show enough of an interest to come out and see a game?
This for me seems a very tantalising option. It could be another good way to make sure the game is spread and promoted through non-traditional Rugby league areas. If the French are involved then expect a large parochial crowd.
So Three matches, where would I have them? Bradford, to happen will need any announcement on the stadium upgrade to happen soon and work get started almost immediately to get it completed by the world Cup. Will that happen? Who Knows. The sport needs to make as large an impact as it can and for me it means that we need to target the three largest cities. The pros outweigh the cons in the end and so i would have the semi finals in Manchester and Paris while the Final is in Wembley. This provides the best of all world in my opinion.
If France makes the Semis, then we should see them play in Paris in front of a good home crowd maximising the exposure there while an English, sorry, British game can be in Manchester, Even if its a Welsh team Manchester is a train ride away and should get a good crowd. Wembley, depending on who is there should be able to pull a decent crowd. Even if its not a full house a 50-60k crowd in Wembley should be a good enough turn out, certainly be more than the 2008 World Cup final.
So, this is my opinion only. I just found this a bit weird.
So last week just doing my usual scan through rugby league news websites I stumbled across two seemingly innocent stories. One id from the AMNRL website and the other is the We Are Rugby website. What got me a bit interested in this the rhetoric on both of these articles. As we all know, the AMNRL and We Are Rugby are intimately linked. They are both part of the Star Group, which is fine. No issues there. However this means that there are media sources that are used by both sites.
Brian Lowe is the AMNRL Media and Communications Director as well he writes for the AMNRL. Now the AMNRL article (http://www.amnrl.com/news/something-everyone) written by Damien Flint paints positive light that League and Union co-exist in the USA without any of the animosity in other countries. However the WAR article (http://www.wearerugby.com/news/articles/differing-tracks-national-teams) written by Brian, I feel, takes the exact opposite track. His criticism of Rugby Union as compared to League in the article shows the usual animosity League has against Union.
I have just found this to be a bit curious and strange to have these two differencing views coming out of the one place… then again, two different people, two different opinions. I leave it to discussion.
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