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Policy Review - Ask the RFL

26th October 2014


Finally, a reminder that the draw for the quarter finals of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup will take place live on BBC Breakfast TV and BBC Radio 5 Live at 8.35am tomorrow morning and of course we hope you enjoy this weekend’s rugby league action, whatever level of the game you are involved in.


We hope that you have found it informative.


Given that we have received in excess of 1 thousand questions, we have tried to pick out and answer ones from the common themes that have emerged.


End Statement: Nigel: We have been really encouraged by the high level of interest in today’s event and would like to thank the people who entered into the spirit of this new initiative.


Nigel: I assume the questioner must be referring to a contest between Swinton Lions and Shawcross Sharks? I think the Lions, as a Kingstone Press Championship side would probably win that one!


Final Question Q.) From @Jonsmalldon - @TheRFL Who would win between a lion and a shark? #asktherfl


Personally, I am sure the event next weekend will be as exciting a spectacle as the one we enjoyed last year. It is an unique event to rugby league, showcasing the best of our sport to a wide audience and one we should celebrate unreservedly where all 14 clubs and their fans mix in a social and secure atmosphere.


Nigel: The RFL does not make a single penny out of staging from Magic Weekend. All revenues generated flow to the clubs that participate, it represents a home game for them. The feedback we get about the event is that it is highly regarded by many supporters, certainly by the players who ordinarily don’t get the opportunity to play at the world’s best stadia, and valued significantly by the broadcasters who relish the prospect of showcasing all 14 clubs back-to-back over one weekend.


Q.) – From @Saintguss - Why do you insist on continuing the Magic Weekend, all it does it boost RFL funds at our expense. We go because we love our team?


Nigel: For the record, the three-tiered system has not been adopted yet. However, in relation to your point the issue of dual-registration and loan movements between clubs will have to be considered carefully in an environment where promotion and relegation is at stake at the end of each season.


Q.) – From @thebackline - How will the dual-registration fit into the new proposed three-tier system?


Thank you for all your interest and questions so far, Ralph has left to attend another meeting but Nigel is happy to remain for a little longer to answer further questions.


Like all entities Rugby League has scare and finite resource yet no end of legitimate users for these and the balance has to be struck to ensure the right proportions of those resources are shared in the right areas to provide a sound economic environment for the game to operate in..


Nigel: The issue of funding is of course crucial to any league structure and to fair Super League already has a fairly egalitarian model when compared to some other sports. What we are trying to achieve is a system which allows the elite clubs the best chance of producing and retaining world class talent, while giving other clubs sufficient central distribution to make meaningful and structured progress.


Q.) From @AlanMcGreen – Doesn’t the proposed funding arrangement create an unfair competition?


Nigel: The Policy Review is taking a ‘whole sport’ approach to the future of the game and we are certainly looking at all the options to grow the sport in the years ahead. There is no doubt that Catalan Dragons have been a success story for Rugby League.


Q.) From @leagueofrobots - #asktheRFL is Super league in the long term going to be a European league or an English league with a French club?


Ralph: The policy review is about a ‘whole-sport’ solution which is about the good health of the whole game. Our initial presentations to each of the constituent parts demonstrates our commitment to producing exciting, competitive rugby league at every level whilst also enabling all aspiring clubs to achieve their ambitions. The concentration we have shown recently on the Championships and the successes that this has brought in terms of new players, spectators and viewers emphasises our focus at this level.


Q.) From @saintiam - Do you think RL is too Super League centric? A strong top relies on a solid bottom, the championships are forgotten?


This applies just as much to those clubs in other sports that fail financially from time to time, for instance Portsmouth, Rangers etc. Whatever league structures it cannot alter the fact that individual clubs are responsible for their own behaviour. There is no league structure, in any sport, that is capable of protecting clubs from poor and inappropriate local decision making.


Nigel: All clubs, in fact all businesses, are run by a board of directors who are solely responsible for how they operate and manage their affairs, the contacts they enter into and the commercial decisions they take.


Q.) From @Leaguefreak – Who is responsible for the fact that over the last three years Wrexham, Wakefield and Bradford all went bust?


The Board members are elected by the RFL Council , which is ultimately the governing body's highest power, and is made up of representatives from all parts of the game’s constituencies .


Ralph: Basically yes, The RFL has an independent Board of Directors that are appointed to hold the executive to account and who can scrutinise activity from a perspective of "no self-interest!". In many way the ARLC has copied the system used by British Rugby League for the last 10 years.


Q.) From @Waroughyed - Who holds you accountable, for your actions? Do we have a commission like the nrl?


Nigel: In discussing the options including the 12 x 12 and 3 x 8’s option, top 12 at the end of the 2014 season would be the final league standing - with no club within it receiving any protection.


Q.) From @Wobblyhead - Will 'expansion teams' such as London & Catalan be allowed to succeed or fail on a level playing field from now on?


It is important to note that we believe across the whole sport in 2013 there will be more commercial revenue than ever before. We need to maximise the opportunities 2013 offers the sport, which is why getting the best outcome for the whole game from the policy review is so important.


There is of course the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, draw for which is live on BBC TV and BBC 5 Live tomorrow at 8.35am, Northern Rail Cup and Kingstone Press Championships. The policy review is about making our sport as dynamic and attractive to both fans and commercial partners, which we believe will deliver more revenue in the long term.


Ralph: Not strictly policy review related, but as a lot of you are asking – We have a range of commercial partners who are providing great backing for our sport – Super League partners include Tetley’s, Brut, Foxy Bingo and Heinz.


Q.) From @brendanw18 – Why is there no sponsor for Super League?


It is really important that we find the most sustainable way to achieve this and whilst inevitably much of the focus in the policy review discussion are about the elite game, as much thinking is going into what happens at community level and at championship one level to ensure we have a constancy of approach across the whole sport.


Nigel: No clubs will be left out and we are determined to provide a ‘whole-sport’ solution which prepares and allows all clubs to move up and down the pyramid of the game.


Q.) From @AshleyC – What would happen to clubs left out of any proposed re-structure?


Ralph: On any of the league structures offered there will be some minimum standards applied on finance and also facilities, but they are likely to be less rigorous as the models are based upon a greater freedom of movement for clubs and players


Q.) From @_davidfrost - With new league structures, what happens at the Grounds falling apart like Cas & Wakey, They've never improved or moved. #AskTheRFL


I appreciate that option 3 requires a deeper analysis, but I believe when fans look closely at how it would work they will see the merits and the opportunities for their club(s). However we are just entering the consultation phase of the policy review which will allow all opinions across the game to be heard and the final decision will then be taken by the game’s constituents.


Ralph: We have analysed several options and presented the strengths and weaknesses of each for consultation. Personally I like the more innovative option and I think if you are looking for a solution which means that every match matters more for fans, viewers and commercial partners this option looks to do that in an exciting way.


Q.) From @TomSavage - For the record, which options do Nigel and Ralph personally and currently prefer?


Nigel: One of the reasons for the policy review is to enable a step change in the commercialisation of the sport. Yes there will be less games , but they should all be far more intense and competitive which should attract bigger crowds in itself. Larger crowds bring greater revenues ( direct and secondary ) and also more viewers , which , once again , offers a greater opportunity to commercialise the sport.


Q.) From @MarkIll - What will be done to overcome revenue deficits due to fewer home games and potentially no home games v big teams in option 3?


Nigel: First of all football and rugby league are different games and clearly it is a matter for Scotland to decide their structures in the same we are determined to do what is best for Rugby League. Interestingly my understanding of the voting system on that issue was that 10 out of 12 clubs were actually in favour of change but their system allowed two member clubs to veto any changes.


Q.) From @JohnShort – If something similar was considered and rejected in Scottish football, what lessons can be learned?


Is that a better prospect for a club and it’s supports than a certain fixture list with perhaps more dead-rubber games?


Many clubs already offer full season tickets and half-season tickets on a club by club basis, similarly people buy season tickets for different reasons, some for discounts they offer and some for the certainty of securing their seats for every game. It is certainly the case that some clubs wouldn’t be totally clear as to their full year’s fixtures before the season under option 3. But at the time of offering season tickets they would be embarking on an exciting 25 game journey.


Nigel: The issue of Season Tickets is clearly one for each club to determine.


Q.) From @pie_eater81 - How can you expect fans to buy season tickets if they don't even know which teams their team will be playing in opt3?


Ralph: Absolutely and today is a part of the consultation we are engaged in at all levels of the game. We intend to have more opportunities in the weeks ahead, and before any final decision is taken, for fans to have their say and comment on the proposals.


Q.) From @JoeR – Should the fans not have a say in the proposed changes to the Super League table structure?


Ralph: Absolutely, the root and branch policy review is about maximising the revenue for the sport. We want to develop more commercial partners and providing a more exciting product at all levels can only help us to do this. It is not an either or, it is about achieving both.


Q.) From @DcMonands – Shouldn’t the focus be on bringing in more commercial revenue rather than re-structuring the leagues?


One of the driving forces behind this policy review is the return of investment at all levels. The recent expansion at Championship One level demonstrates our will to continue to drive the game forward and also the entry level at which it seems to be advantageous to the sport.


Nigel: The key issue for rugby league is that the competition below Super League is part-time and it is making sense of that movement in a sustainable way and that is the challenge for our sport.


Q.) @danielwilkinson – how do other sports cope with promotion and relegation? Are we suffering financially from failed attempts at expansion?


In summary, there are Salary Cap issues throughout the 3 divisions and it is recognised that more detail needs to be determined in order to not only stimulate each of the competitions, but do so in a responsible manner.


Ralph: In this eventuality, there may be an ability to raise the Salary Cap in the future, without jeopardising the sustainability of each of the clubs. There is an issue over the Salary Cap at the top of Tier 2 - would need to be raised in order to make the middle 8 Play Off competitive.


Q.) From @skiingrhino - If option 3 is chosen, how do you propose the salary cap to work? Same cap? Split won't work properly otherwise


Addressing a sustainable opportunity for clubs to progress has been at the forefront of our thinking and why we have included a bold new approach to league structures within the Policy Review This option of 2x12 and 3x8 offers a new approach and potentially a situation where every match matters and a sustainable pathway for clubs to reach Super League and grow successfully as they play more often against well matched sides in the 3x8 divisions.


We are committed to making access to Super League available to aspiring clubs but it has to be on a sustainable basis to give the best possible chance of clubs surviving in their new environment. We have looked at the issues and challenges from previous experiences and consulted sports finance experts KPMG to look at how a range of league structures could operate.


Nigel: The issue for Rugby League is of course that Super League is full-time and the Championships are part-time and most sensible observers recognise that the transition from either league at one month’s notice at the end of a season when most playing talent has already been secured is destined to create huge challenges.


Q.) From @Lukebeadle - #AskTheRFL What is wrong with going back to promotion and relegation?


You can tweet us further questions during the hour using #AskTheRFL or #RLPolicyReview and we’ll endeavour to answer as many as we can – this hour is solely focused on policy review questions.


RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood and RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer have taken their place at the hot desk and will answer some of the questions that you have been putting to us. (Post picture from behind desk)



Hi everyone, Thank you for joining in today.