Wednesday, 10 October 2012

More Sheffield Eagles Anger

Sheffield Eagles director John Whaling has today expressed sentiments which in no way surprise me, but may well have surprised a few at Red Hall,where the Rugby Football League is based.

His statement in full can be read HERE, at the Eagles' official website, but it is worthwhile dwelling in a little more detail on a couple of the points raised.

Whaling said:

"When it was announced that there would be a mini round of licensing in the wake of the Bradford Bulls troubles the press release said it would involve Leigh, Halifax and Featherstone, why was this when Sheffield Eagles had also earned the right to apply for Super League status by virtue of making it to the 2011 Grand Final? When we queried this with the RFL we were told ‘failure to mention Sheffield is probably as a result of journalists errors rather than a proper assessment of which clubs might be a candidate for any mini-licensing process’ however when we queried it with the press we were told it was exactly as sent out by the RFL, it shows that South Yorkshire is nowhere near the front of people’s minds in Red Hall.

"When we queried why nothing had been released congratulating Sheffield and Doncaster on their Grand Final success we were told ‘after the Grand Finals last year we did issue something along those lines and it didn’t get picked up at all’, is this a good reason not to put anything out this year?"

The mealy mouthed nature of this alleged excuse is really something else. Excusing amateurism by saying we thought there was no point in doing it properly is poor.

There is also a coded accusation from Whaling that there is clear bias shown in favour of clubs from the 'heartland' over those in South Yorkshire in the press release. This is strange when the game's governing body is usually so keen to trumpet its achievements with regard to expansion.

Whaling continues:

"The RFL have thrown money at expansion in Wales, London and France and yet the closest place to the heartland receives very little encouragement and no financial support to help expand. Both Sheffield and Doncaster have to battle against other sports, mainly soccer, but the potential in both areas is enormous but we can’t be expected to do everything ourselves when we are already struggling with finance due to a downturn in the corporate market."

My own contact with the RFL regarding this matter has been confusing. The matter of general economic downturn does not seem to factor into their thinking. The fact that they are making money seems to shape a somewhat solipsistic kind of perception of what empty seats are actually caused by, something which is also found in the mainstream rugby league media.

There seems often to be a wilful blindness to just how difficult a task the Eagles have faced in building a club up from basically nothing, to where it is now, arguably, the most successful club currently outside the top flight.

Mark Aston's team has won honours on the pitch, the club has put down firm roots in the community and has contributed to the spread of the amateur game in South Yorkshire. Players from the region are coming through and playing first team rugby league, while there is also a credible commercial plan which  has made profit for the last two years running.

There are lessons to be learned from this, for everyone in rugby league. Yet the game's governing bodies seem time and again to avoid mentioning the Eagles at all. One wonders if there is some kind of clash of personalities in play. Perhaps it is just the traditional rivalry of those from the Leeds area with those from the south of the county of Yorkshire, but to draw no attention to the obvious success of what is an expansion side seems ignorant and myopic at best, contrary and stubborn at worst.

You can read what my thoughts were on this matter earlier this year in the next blog post HERE. This article comes from the Code13 archive, and includes another interesting chat with Mark Aston.

'Stumbles and Half Slips' by Zack Wilson is available from, published by Epic Rites Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment