This week there have been many exciting announcements in International Rugby league. The venues for the last two rounds of the World Cup have been announced and though no real surprises in the end a very good choice has been made. More news on the World Club Challenge also came out this week with the expansion looking like a likely event. Plus some interesting news to come out from Australia with the NRL which harks back to one of my previous articles and comments from readers last week.
But before we get started, a quick, Get better soon, to Phil Bentham, who had an unfortunate accident while refereeing the Wigan-Hull KR game yesterday. He broke his ankle in a collision. I had the pleasure of meeting Phil in 2010 at the Atlantic Cup. A true gentleman in the game and a great guys to hang out with. I hope he gets better soon. All the best Phil!
This week the semi-finals and final venues have been announced for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. In a not so surprising announcement Wembley Stadium has a double header Semi Final and Manchester’s Old Trafford gets the finals. Its not an adventurous move, but a smart one none the less. There is no guarantee that England will make the Final however there is a more than 90% chance that they will be in the semis. Having the Semi finals in London will ensure that English fans will come out for the game, if the French or Welsh make it then its a venue that is not that difficult to get to either. Wembley has a looooong history in hosting big Rugby league events with the Challenge Cup Final. Also chances are that Australia and New Zealand will be in the semis and this will play right into the large ex-pat communities of antipodeans the exist in London.
Manchester basically sits in Rugby league heartland. Even if England do not make the final there should be a good crowd turn up for the game. Played on the 30th of November, its basically the last week of Rugby league for the year and what better way to end the season. This means that two big Rugby league events would have been hosted that year with the Super League final also there. Its a safe but good choice of venue and I think its one that should pay off for International Rugby League.
Aside from the hiccup we have had in Whitehaven, all the venues have been announced more than a year and a half out, hopefully now the RFL and RLIF will go hell bent on promoting the tournament and really make it a success. In all the venue choices the RFL and RLIF should be congratulated on their handling so far. I don;t think we knew so much about the 2008 World Cup 18 months out.
The announcement of the venues is by no means a fluke. Representatives of all 14 nations competing in the 2013 World Cup are in England to start their preparations for the tournament. This also gives them a chance to start viewing the venues for the first time. These are exciting times for International Rugby League, with all these preparations it shows that the World Cup organisers are getting serious about promoting the International game.
The one question that I still ask with all of this; one RLWC2013 is all over, what will happen with the profits and money, will we finally see a full international schedule with a full professional RLIF running the show?
With the meeting of the RLIF and the World Cup Nations talk has come up again about expanding the World Club Challenge. Nigel Wood and David Gallop are looking to have a working expansion party to looking into the tournament expanding. One thing that has me worried about it is that Shane Richardson and Peter Doust are in on the act. Two of the more anti-international Rugby league people I have seen. Shane Richardson seems to be the Eddie McGuire of Rugby League, he seems to stick his fingers in everything. It will be interesting to see what will come out of all this.
Melbourne have launched a bold bid to have a permanent game in State of Origin. This represents a big cash cow not only for the Australian Rugby league but also for the broadcaster. But I think this would be a mistake. Melbourne should only deserve a permanent game if and only if they can get enough Victorian grown players to have their own team.
So where to have the other game, while not spread it around, like what is done in the NFL each year. Cities can bid for the rights to host a game. It will need to be shown that the money incentives will be there, the fans will come out and the benefit to the local Rugby league community as well. If the ARLC is really serious about promoting the sport then this is the way it needs to go.
So my head hurt this week, not from any neurological issues (though some may claim being a physicist for a living puts that into question lol), or any hangovers. Its from me banging my head against the wall over and over again. Why? Just have a read of the latest rubbish to come from channel 9. Yes Channel 9 is launching a $1 billion bid but the stipulations they are putting on it all are ridiculous. A few articles ago I gave an answer to one of my readers about the path of Australian and International Rugby League. This shows the next step in that evolution in my answer. I re-post this below. This was the post-trail from my article on the 29th of April I have highlighted the paragraph where I basically predicted this a week ago.
Unless the big three want the international game to grow then it’s just not going to happen. They think RL IS them. Is it now time to pull up the drawbridge and let them play each other ad infinitum and forget about international RL?
Mmm that may be more true than you realise.
Care to expand on that dru?
Well looking into my Crystal Ball, this is the future I see for International Rugby League, the signs are there with the way things are handles by the big 3 … well 2 really (Aus and NZ).
In essence there will be a major split in the entire sport within the next 5-10 year.
The current situation where players continually get poached and the nations and international are treated as second class citizens will come to a head. The NRL will continue to do their own thing, and within Australia, what I can see happening is that states and clubs that are not within the NRL sphere will break away and go it alone. This will cause a massive shift in the RLIF. It will probably be demanded that a true international governing body be set up, one that overseas the sport.
This will most probably spill into New Zealand’s lower ranks as well, so the Warriors will essentially be isolated with the NRL. The “NRL” will essentially go it alone, which is fine, but the sport will start to mutate drastically into something else, Australian Rugby Rules (ARR) and will become like the NFL and AFL essentially.
With the prospect of greater competition else where, the other nations in the PI and Europe will go with the new organisation. What we now know as the RLEF, by then will have dwarfed the RLIF and will become the new RLIF. It will have the base of money and sponsorship to be able to go it alone, as its starting to show now.
England and the RFL, however I can see backing the new organisation. Even now its clear that they are on the most part reluctant to take on all the new rules and changes the NRL makes, and also the RFL and British Rugby league are much more willing to help develop the sport outside of their own country. Its easy to see this with things like the Pioneers and the recent Military tours and other matches that England cares more about international development than anyone else… this may change now that Lewis is gone, he was the main push for this in Europe.
Back in the Pacific Rim, teams from the QLD and NSW cup will switch with Rugby League, along with some of the stronger clubs in the other states a true national competition of about 12-14 teams will be established and similarly in new Zealand. A club championships between the Aussie, NZ and PNG champions will pop up as well.
There will still be cross code players, I don’t see an issue with that, they will want to initially earn a crust with the ARR, but over the years as the true Rugby League builds up a head of steam and money, more and more players will opt to stay with it. Why? well more and more professional and semi-professional comps will pop up around the world, so rather than everyone being stuck in one or two countries they will spread the talent through maybe 10 countries developing a more uniform competition. Also with the opportunity of playing internationals, something that the ARR by 5 years after the split will be sorely lacking, will keep players to stay on with Rugby League.
With regular international tournaments, you will have have an end to the eligibility silliness, and playing for your country will have meaning again. A resurgence in English and French Rugby League will happen as well since they will have the two pro comps to start with, it will take a year or two for Australia to catch up and compete again.
ARR will also continue to survive and thrive, I am not saying the NRL (i.e. ARR) will die, but it will mutate into something looking more and more like the NFL, since they will be striving for TV money and sponsors, they will start having more and more breaks and stoppages for commercials. It won’t be completely like the NFL, but enough that it won’t be Rugby League.
So, there will end up being 6 major Rugby derived codes in the world by 2027. That is the way I am seeing it. But anything can happen, it all could just as suddenly change, and thing can improve and the split wont happen. The next 5-10 years will be interesting indeed.
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