Thursday 28 July 2011

Fan's view on Super League Licensing for 2012 - Halifax dudded, Wakefield lucky.

Who should take Crusaders' place in Super League?
By Stuart Scholes 28/07/2011

NOT The Footy Show asked their English correspondent Stuart Scholes to pen his thoughts on the way the RFL conducted itself in announcing the new Super League licences from 2012.

Prior to the announcement that the Crusaders would be withdrawing their Super League licence application on Tuesday, everyone including Wakefield, thought that the Wildcats were not going to be given a new Super League licence for the next three seasons.

And they had good reason to believe this would be the case.

For a start Wakefield has recently been put into administration which meant that financially they were shot. The playing squad has struggled to be competitive due to a youth policy which has not been up to scratch (especially when you compare that to their neighbours Castleford promoted number of good players from their academy in recent seasons) and their Belle Vue Stadium is in such poor condition that its best asset is the burgers it sells.

So Wakefield’s survival has come about not because of how they are placed as a franchise, but because of the fall of the Crusaders Rugby League Club (hear more about the fall of the club from current front rower Mark Bryant's interview with NOT The Footy Show in Episode 75).

Crusaders’ failing with finances hasn’t come as a shock to most people; they started off in South Wales and after just one season in the Super League, went bust and had to relocate to North Wales. But they soon went bust again and then blamed it on their time in South Wales.

Yet in light of recent developments, it appears they have been struggling all along.  They have been in contact with the RFL for months in regard with financial difficulties but the worse thing that the Crusaders have done is the way they have treated there players - unprofessionally.

Here is the Official Super League Licensing Announcement:

It is my belief that the RFL have made the easy but wrong decision by replacing the soon to be defunct Crusaders RL with the Widnes Vikings, who were given a licence in march for filling in all the ‘requirements’ for a Super League licence back in March.

The thing that really is baffling is that, the main reason for Widnes not getting a licence back in 2008 was because they were in administration a few months prior to the decision, and here we are three years down the line and Wakefield have been given a Super League reprieve despite being in the same position.

This suggests that there is no consistency with the RFL decision making process at all.

They consistently change their minds on what is/is not required and when you consider that a key reasons why Wakefield were given a license last time around was that they promised to deliver: a new stadium, competitiveness, higher attendances and better finances - but they have failed to deliver.

Fast forward three years and they have again have promised the same and the RFL has accepted this.

While Wakefield does have plans for a new stadium they have not been given governmental permission as yet. While I do believe the decision will be made by the local council later this year, there is a very real possibility that they may not have the new stadium operational by the time the next set of licences are given out.

Now although the RFL has said that a licence can be revoked at any time, I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them given how the Wakefield situation has been handled.
With the Crusaders gone... did Halifax ever really have a chance to be part of Super League?
Then we have Halifax, who not only on the championship last year (the league below Super League) but they have not been in administration and in fact they made a profit last year. Halifax has also made improvements to their stadium and yet despite delivering on some aspects of the Super League licensing requirements have not been rewarded for it.

Wakefield, who has fallen short in many aspects of the licensing process, on the other hand… has received a licence.

I have no allegiances with any of the teams involved, but as a Wigan fan, I just don’t like the way this has worked out. This has been a big story over here, despite Rugby league is a minority sport, and has led most media coverage in the past 24 hours.

Many other neutral fans feel the same as I do, and as expected the Halifax fans are angry and the Wakefield fans are relieved.

I watched the chairman of Wakefield supporters trust on TV straight after the announcement and he looked and sounded shocked that they had been given a licence.

The way that I see it, Halifax should have been promoted with Wakefield given three years to sort themselves out in the Championship and then apply for a Super League Licence when they are ready.

The question of whether or not Super League is strong enough for 14 teams is another argument but I believe that if the governing body plans to persist with that many clubs, then they should be consistent and operate with integrity when choosing which teams can compete at the elite level.
Sadly in this case, it appears they have done neither.

I think that the Halifax chairman puts it best when he says:
At present it feels as if we have been ‘used’, because the RFL needed our application to pretend that the process had a validity, which now appears to be completely lacking.
He would add later in an interview with Sky Sports - worth watching via this link:
"They've broken the terms of their existing licence, so why give them another one?"

Stuart Scholes.

Here is a Video Reaction to the decision to award Castleford and Wakefield new Super League Licences.