I WAS very interested in the remarks Robert Elstone made the other day, reviewing the current season and looking ahead to 2020.
It seems not a lot is going to change next year, but I was encouraged by his comments on the number of matches we play.
That’s something I feel strongly about. At the moment we play too many matches and from what he was quoted as saying, it seems Robert agrees.
The quality of the competition is sometimes brought into question just through the amount of games.
It does start to take its toll on people, maybe not in year one, but if you have been injury-free and playing 30-odd games year on year, that culmination of matches builds up.
In Australia, they play 24 rounds and there’s a couple of byes in there and an international break as well. Then when we compete with Australia and New Zealand at the end of the year, some of our players have probably played between 10 and 15 more games than them. We are expected to do that year in and year out, so three or four years down the line that’s 30 or 40 more games. It is going to have an effect.
It does start to take its toll on people, maybe not in year one, but if you have been injury-free and playing 30-odd games year on year, that culmination of matches builds up.Gareth Ellis
As a competition, I think we have to prioritise quality over quantity and realise that sometimes less is more. If we play fewer games it will bring a bit more intensity to the competition.
Robert has confirmed ‘loop’ fixtures will continue next year, which is disappointing.
They obviously add to the number of matches and when you are playing some teams three times – even possibly four or five depending on the cup draw and play-offs – you are watering down some of the rivalry and the competition. I get why they do it, some of the teams need 14 home games to make money, but we can’t base our competition around the ones that are struggling or can’t find other ways of raising income.
That’s something I think will have to be addressed. A big one will be the next television deal, which is coming up.
That is going to have a major bearing because I think if clubs were guaranteed a bit more money they might be more willing to agree to playing fewer games and less gate revenue.
One way to get rid of loop fixtures, though it wouldn’t reduce the amount of rugby we play, is by expanding the competition to 14 clubs. Robert has said he thinks there’s a deep enough player pool to sustain two extra teams and I think that’s true. London went down on points difference and nobody could argue they haven’t been a breath of fresh air with the way they’ve played this year and conducted themselves all season.
If somebody said they’d be in Super League next year nobody would complain, but doing it consistently is the big thing. Clubs who come up have to offer something on and off the field.