Monday, April 16, 2007

Going up ...

One of the things I feel intensely irritated about is the constant lazy propaganda designed to support the abolition of automatic promotion and relegation in Rugby League. The gap between the National Leagues and the Super League is a big one, but the obvious answer, to invest in raising the standard in the lower leagues, is often overlooked in favour of freezing the top divisions or operating a franchise system.

According to its advocates, notably Sky's Stevo, this is supposed to increase the quality and intensity of our game and allow for long-term planning, but how reducing the matches in the bottom half of the table to a series of meaningless friendlies is going to help is beyond me. What it would also do is to end the hopes, purpose and long-term planning of the lower league sides, some of them former greats in the history of Rugby League.

And this is where the propaganda comes in. I bristle with indignation, not just as a supporter of a lower league side, but as an empirical historian. One classic argument is that promotion has failed. A typical example is drawn from Neill Morrow's report on Bradford's defeat of Hull KR at the weekend.

"Hull KR's coach Justin Morgan is now in no doubt as to the scale of his task if his team are to avoid the traditional fate of the promoted side: relegation at first attempt".

The "traditional fate"! This is the 12th season of Super League. How many promoted teams have been relegated at the first attempt? TWO; Leigh, who were woefully under prepared when they went up, and Castleford, who should have stayed up last season but relaxed when they looked safe, only to be caught by a resurgent Wakefield and dramatically beaten in the deciding game before the biggest crowd Belle Vue has seen in many a year. What's more, the crowds have stayed on, with Wakefield using that final day thriller to promote the club. If there was no relegation then that would have been a meaningless match in front of a tiny crowd and there would have been nothing to build on. Also, both last year's losing Grand Finalists and Challenge Cup Finalists, Hull and Huddersfield, were sides that had been promoted. Where would they be now without that opportunity?

The theatre of sport lies in the contest on the field – it is that contest that should determine in which division a club plays.

1 comment:

mikeovswinton said...

Peter, you know what'll happen, don't you? Swinton will get the new ground. The team will start to do really well in NL1, and THEN they'll finally get rid of promotion and relegation. Paranoia? I think not. But regardless, the case for promotion and relegation can be supported by a quick look at the current Super League table. And by the way, you shouldn't even read the Daily Mail webpage. Next time we meet I'll tell you the story of the day that they delivered a Daily Mail to my Grandad, who was out for 6 months in '26 and had a long memory. (It was when the News Chron was merged into it.)