London Broncos’ arrival at Headingley tonight inevitably raises the age-old question of their worthiness as a Super League entity.
The competition’s perennial strugglers juxtaposed with six-times champions Leeds Rhinos clearly highlights the difference in class on the field.
There are similar chasms off it, too, with London continually struggling to attract crowds – just 1,441 turned up against Bradford Bulls at High Wycombe last Saturday – and an inability to gain any real profile in the capital.
But Leeds head coach Brian McDermott has a deeper knowledge than most when assessing the conundrum given he was in charge at Harlequins – Broncos’ previous incarnation – for four years before returning to Yorkshire in 2010.
“The vast majority of people are massively under-qualified to make a judgement on whether London should or should not be in Super League,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“They aren’t aware how much hard work goes on down there, of all the success stories happening at junior level, yet are making judgements about the professional team that represents Super League.
“They’re not aware of the obstacles that just being in London are put in their way. There’s no level playing field.
“I think rugby league in London works. Does it work at the Stoop? Probably not. It probably hasn’t been working in the last four, five or six years. But, at the same time, London has had to fall in line with the exact same criteria as every other Super League club.
“In the south of France, rugby league is massive, in the north of England it’s massive but in London it’s not yet they’ve had to fall in line with that criteria.
“They’ve done it without any moaning, haven’t tried to cut corners and are playing off the same salary cap yet at least £300,000 of London’s cap goes on accommodation alone; a player getting paid £90,000 up north goes down London for £110,000.
“Times that by 25 squad members and it’s a fair old whack you’re not spending on the quality of player.”
London have won just twice this term and not prospered at Headingley since 2000 but Hackney-born England Knights winger Kieran Dixon, 20, is a sign that their own talent is emerging.
“Kids love playing it down there and I’m not talking kids who can’t play union or don’t want to play soccer,” added McDermott.
“These are children choosing to play rugby league and they are getting very good at it.
“Some 16-year-old kids have now been playing since they were nine and they know the game.
“There’s been vast, vast improvements since I first went down and the number of schools winning competitions is proof in the pudding.
“But it needs help from a lot of different entities to get it working at this level and not just (chairman) David Hughes who has spent an astronomical amount to keep them going.”