London Broncos coach Jamie Langley calls for return of franchises and says top flight needs them back

AS he looks out of his window at home and sees Windsor Castle in the distance, former Bradford Bulls and England loose forward Jamie Langley readily admits he has come a long way from humble beginnings in Normanton.

Jamie Langley

Rather than his hometown on the outskirts of Wakefield, he is now residing just down the road from the Queen.

With esteemed neighbours like that, maybe the gregarious Yorkshireman had put a good word in when it came to that £16m Government loan the sport recently secured.

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In all seriousness, Langley, of course, is currently assistant coach at London Broncos who play at nearby Ealing.

Bet Fred Super League. Hull Kingston Rovers v London Broncos. London's head coach Danny Ward. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe 6th September 2019.

That said, given the coronavirus pandemic, there has been no coaching nor playing for some time now, although the return-to-play process was discussed by the Rugby Football League with clubs from Super League, the Championship and League 1 this week.

With Premier League football hoping to start up again on June 12, it is hoped, by some at least, that rugby league will follow in the weeks after.

London are desperate for the season to resume, even if some of their Championship rivals, worried by the bleak financial prospects playing behind closed doors could bring, are not.

On their return to Super League last term, Broncos shone, shocking plenty of big names against the odds only to be relegated in heartbreaking fashion on a dramatic final night of action.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 15/03/2019 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - Leeds Rhinos v London Broncos - Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England - London celebrate Jay PItts's try against Leeds.

The highly-respected young head coach Danny Ward did remain along with Langley, even if many of their star assets understandably moved elsewhere.

London managed to stay as a full-time operation and have every intention of going straight back up, a record of four wins from five games before the shutdown showing their pedigree.

Yet many in Super League believe there should be no relegation in 2020 due to the unprecedented effects of Covid-19 and how it might yet unbalance the campaign once it does restart.

“There’s still quite a lot of ambiguity around it and the issues of promotion and relegation,” Langley told The Yorkshire Post.

“But we totally get it. We were in that situation ourselves as a club eight months ago when we were faced with having to be relegated from Super League.

“As we look at it now, from the subjective and objective point of view, we probably are in favour of no relegation from Super League as well.

“I think it’d be wrong with the situation everyone is under now – and the unprecedented circumstances of Covid – that a team would have to face that.

“We know what it’s like; it’s not a nice situation to be in.

“But then where does that leave us?

“Alongside a few other clubs in the Championship, we’re striving for promotion back to Super League and, just speaking from our perspective, we feel we are ready to go.

“We’re still running a full-time operation, have a strong squad together, we know how much we brought to the competition last year – we felt we really added some value – and unfortunately just fell at the final hurdle.

“But we have a strong infrastructure in place, all the way from scholarship to reserves, we know we have a great facility in Ealing, and a good environment where we can get the best out of our players.

“So we’re massive advocates now for trying to get the competition underway by any means. We might be in the minority there but we feel we’ve a great chance to get back to where we feel we belong – London in Super League.”

Two working groups were set up this week for Championship and League 1 clubs to assess the costs of starting behind closed doors as well as the potential revenue streams to offset that.

It remains to be seen how it will conclude but Langley, who played more than 250 games for Bradford including the 2005 Grand Final win and a couple of World Club Challenge successes, has learned first-hand how important London are to the whole equation.

“I’ve been coaching down here for four years now,” he said, having retired early after brief spells at Hull KR and Sheffield Eagles.

“It’s imperative for the sport to be able to flourish down in London and continue and not just from our club perspective.

“I see it from both sides; there’s probably 30 or more thriving community clubs down south now all producing players.

“You can see how many we do produce; our current first-team squad has somewhere around 50 per cent coming from our system and – if you look across Super League – you’d be hard pushed to find a club without a London Broncos player playing for them.

“There’s a massive untapped pool of talent and it’s just about getting the right people and funding in place to unearth them.”

Ultimately, the ex-Great Britain international believes the sport should return to the three-year franchise system used to decide Super League clubs which was disbanded in 2011.

“We lost around 13 players after going down,” said Langley, who has also worked as an England Academy assistant coach.

“We’d have retained about 90 per cent if still in Super League and had that security, not relegation hanging over our head.

“I think that we have to look at that for 2022; the current way is no good to man nor beast. I think a few would be in favour. It’d be better for the product and better for the game as a whole.”