Last week, I stumbled across Staring into the abyss? The state of UK rugby’s Super League.
The paper concludes that there “remains a problem with the attractiveness of the Super League, which is a product of poor financial management at club level and reluctance by the RFL to undertake radical structural change.”
The history lesson, in particular, was of interest. Some of the conclusions were fair. However, there is a huge strength that struck me as being almost entirely disregarded. Throughout the paper, the word “community” is mentioned just once. A small, but tightly knit community can trump quality or any other kind of structural change. Especially so in the M62 corridor, especially so if it’s a real community that’s over 100 years old. If this community is carried into the 21st century, into a digital ecosystem on an O&O, it can support the clubs and sport from top to bottom. Contrary to the directive over the past two decades, the league should focus on what it has, on communities in England where Rugby League is intrinsic to identity.
The Super League has an average attendance of 8k which puts league attendance, the avid fan base, at around 100k week-on-week. These fans, plus casual fans, have a huge level of shared affinity – Arguably, unparalleled in terms of the significance of the role it plays in the lives and identity of everyday people. If Super League can give this shared affinity a digital home, if RL can return to its roots of tight-knit communities that date back to the textile mills, then there is a viable business. The clubs will have found stability.