philcaplan

Monday, 12 September 2016

Where are you now Bert Baskerville?


Prior to the arrival of  The All Golds in 1907, Northern Union officials were concerned that the new code would not be able to survive financially without international competition and the gate receipts produced. Of course, The All Golds tour was a big success and it facilitated the introduction of the new code in New Zealand and Australia who provided the required international competition. As a result, the new code went from strength to strength and was eventually renamed Rugby League.

Despite peaks and troughs, Rugby League has generally prospered and, last year it celebrated its 120th anniversary. Times have changed and progress has been made. The game is now played in the summer by full time professionals and is beginning to spread around the UK and further afield. In 2016, grass root games between Oxford, Coventry, North Wales, South Wales, Hemel Hempsted and London took place. In the next few months Serbia, Spain, Russia, Italy, Malta, Thailand, Scotland and Ireland will all compete internationally. This would've been unthinkable even twenty years ago.

Progress is definitely being made but times are tough for the professional game in the UK. Crowds, TV audiences, media attention and income are declining and without SKY, the game would be bankrupt. Rugby League seems unable to gain the increased corporate sponsorship it needs and struggles to achieve the wider recognition it craves.

Clubs need income to pay players and are forced to play an excessive number of fixtures to generate enough money. This affects both player welfare and the quality of the product show. Familiarity breeds contempt for spectators who are tired of watching the same teams over and over again. Wigan v St Helens is great but their are limits.

The NFL is just starting and they only play twenty games in a season  lasting only four month but generate massive revenues. Basic economics involving supply and demand indicate that fewer games would mean more interest. We should play fewer games, concentrate on quality and introduce some variety.

An Ashes (or Lions) Tour would be ideal but we threw that baby out with the bathwater when moving the season to summer. It has never been replaced and we have never had anybody in charge with enough business acumen or entrepreneurial skill to produce an alternative.

The original Northern Union officials were probably right to be concerned that their new code would
struggle financially without international competition.

Where are you now Bert Baskerville?  

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