Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Trouble At Mill?

The above phrase is North English in origin, suitable as RL is basically a North English sport. It goes back to the mill factories in the area and how there were disputes between workers and owners. The lives of poor workers revolved around the mill and trouble there could affect their lives in a major way.

Fast forward to 2018 and with regard to UK RL, there could be trouble at t' mill again. A brief background. A few years back, a new format was introduced where two thirds of the way through a season the two professional/semi-pro leagues became three. It had mixed reviews as to its success.

More recently there has also been a shift in power as the professional clubs have taken control of decision making for themselves at the expense of the game's overall authority, the RFL. However, before the trouble an oveview of the present system.


The top eight sides from the top division continue for another 7 weeks. That later becomes a top four, who go for the grand final victory.

The bottom four from the top division join the top four from the second division, becoming the middle eights. The top four from this group go into the top flight the following season and the bottom four move into the second division.

A lower eight from the second division play on to win that group, the bottom team relegated and the second to bottom in a playoff match.


The problem I feel with the top eights is the teams carries over points from the league. That means little changes as it is too much to ask teams with fewer points to overhaul teams that have performed better all season up until then. It becomes a procession, waiting for the final four playoffs.

The middle eights are exciting as anything from none to four teams can be promoted or relegated. In reality at best only one side in a season swaps places with a team above. However, it gets teams in the first division rattled and nervous with the uncertainty. It gives much hope to teams wanting promotion, so a two edged sword.

The lower eights are somewhat depreciated with the best sides moving into the middle eights and it doesn't garner too much excitement.

Development: An announcement has been made by the newly appointed chief executive of the first division Super League that the system will revert to not having a dividing of teams into three playoff divisions and that there will be one team up, one down between div 1 and div 2 without a playoff match required.

Also, in such a physical game, an opportunity has opened up for less matches per season, which would be kinder on battered bodies. Unfortunately, it seems a long season will still exist, perhaps to give the TV paymasters a longer season of games. The same TV people who buy all the games in the UK, yet show so few each week.

Trouble at mill: The problem is one chief executive of a SL club has come out immediately after the above mentioned official SL announcement and said some pro clubs are enforcing their new found power. They are coming out with their new scheme that hasn't been agreed to by everyone. A statement from the Leeds club as quoted from the BBC:

"Today's announcement regarding plans for next season appear to be an absurd grab for power for the game by a small group of men who think they own the game. Leeds Rhinos are not party to this and are totally against the creation of a separate Super League executive".

Summary: This sort of thing goes on in governing bodies but RL manages to play it out in public. I have no problem with that as we all know power produces this sort of behaviour, although not a good look in a pc world. What we see is SL clubs marginalising the governing body (RFL) and key players in SL having a lobby group that is now getting what they want, without sufficient dialogue with all stakeholders.

The fact is the professional SL is the pinnacle of the RL system and generates the money. It wants to use that position to run things its way and the rest of the sport has to follow. Even a minority within SL who disagree will have to yield to their wishes.

The risk is vested interests will prevail at the expense of the overall good for the game. If SL has sufficient pragmatism to protect the game as a whole, then no need for concern. If self interest is the over riding mentality, the game below the top level will suffer. Time will tell. Indeed, trouble at t'mill.

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