The new RL season started yesterday (did anybody notice the publicity?) and one of the first matches will see Toulouse entertain Dewsbury in the Northern Rail Cup.
The Toulouse RL team represent a large, vibrant city in southern France while Dewsbury come from a small Yorkshire town in the traditional English RL heartlands. Throughout the season Toulouse will travel to and from similar small towns in the north of England and most of their away matches will take place in front of pitifully small crowds. The English RFL are paying the travel expenses but is this money well spent?
Surely it would be much better to use this money spent subsidising travel arrangements to relaunch the French Championship. It certainly needs it because the removal of two of the strongest teams in UTC (renamed Les Catalans) and Toulouse has decimated a once strong competition. There aren't many clubs left, most are struggling and some of those are the result of mergers. This severely limits the chances of the French national team on the international stage
It is sad that foward thinking French RL clubs (such as Toulouse and I predict others may follow) now feel they have no alternative other than joining their RL counterparts in England. France is a developed country with a strong rugby culture and a long proud tradition in Rugby League. It is bigger than the UK, much bigger than Australia and is an obvious market for our sport. Existing clubs and a large fan base are desperate for top class action.
Maybe Toulouse should join the Super League and they would certainly add value and much needed colour to the competition. They are big city club who already attract reasonable crowds to their home games which I'm sure would grow.They would have no trouble finding commercial partners to compete financially and we could look foward to closely fought derby matches between Toulouse and Les Catalans. Both teams could provide players for the French national team which would double their player pool and chances.
This probably won't happen unless Toulouse actually win the Northern Rail Cup because it would be unfair on other small clubs e.g. Dewsbury in the north of England who have very little chance of ever joining or ever being competitive with big city clubs. Some clubs like Batley and Featherstone have recognised reality and are content to compete at a lower level. This is a sensible and admirable approach