Upcoming Fixtures Recent Results Live Scores All Fixtures All Results Table
London Without The Broncos - Why Not?

London Without The Broncos - Why Not?

Friday 13 Sep 2013 11:06am
London Broncos may have avoided the ignominy of finishing bottom of the Super League table with a win on the final day of the season but that doesn’t disguise the extent of the problems at the club and it has been confirmed to Running Rugby that new backing is being sought and the Rugby Football League is exploring ways it can help as well.

There have been reports that the Broncos may not have the means to take up their place in Super League next season, with Featherstone’s majority shareholder Feisal Nahaboo also offering to replace them, and sources close to the club have confirmed that talks are underway to secure new backing.

Meanwhile, the RFL has confirmed that it is exploring ways of helping by perhaps taking over control of the Broncos’ academy in order to ease the financial burden.

“There is an academy in Cumbria that we run in conjunction with the professional and amateur clubs in Cumbria. That was set up with the aim of allowing aspirational young players to stay in Cumbria and it has worked really well,” the RFL’s communications manager John Ledger revealed.

“There is a meeting on Friday with some of the RFL’s directors and the proposal is in its infancy at the minute but it is currently working well in Cumbria and the North East.

“Every Super League club currently has to run an academy and there are already plans in place for 2015 for the number of academies to come down because it makes no sense for Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers to both run academies given the costs involved.”

Ledger believes it makes financial sense, with only a limited amount of money in the game, for there to be fewer academies in general and that idea appears to be very close to becoming a reality but he says the academy setup in London is thriving and needs to be preserved.

“There are economies of scale to be gained from having shared academies in Hull or certain parts of West Yorkshire and the North West, so that clubs aren’t fighting for talent from the same pool and driving up costs. We are at quite an advanced stage in terms of working out a formula for that to happen,” he said.

“There is a real awareness that, whilst the London Broncos as a Super League club have issues, that shouldn’t unduly damage the great work that is being done elsewhere around the London area.

“So, rather than the Broncos running their own academy as they do now, it might be in the best interests of everyone going forwards if the running of that academy fell to the London Rugby League group.”

It is the young players that those in charge, both at clubs in and around London and at the RFL, are most concerned about in terms of any knock-on effect or fallout from the ongoing problems being experienced at the Broncos.

London Skolars general manager Howard Kramer and Hemel Stags sales and marketing director Tom Williams both insist that their clubs are in good shape and will survive, and even prosper, regardless of what happens to the Broncos.

However, there is real concern about what message not having a Super League club in London sends out to youngsters in the South East who aspire to play the sport at a professional level and Kramer says the pathway that takes players from the likes of the Skolars and Hemel to the Broncos is an important one.

“I think having a Super League club in London definitely does matter. If you look at the progress that certain players have made, Kieran Dixon and Dan Sarginson coming through Hemel’s ranks for example and our own Iliess Macani who made a try-scoring debut for the Broncos a couple of weeks ago, there is a route for players who aspire to become professionals,” he said.

“Players come through our ranks and at Hemel as well and there is a pathway that goes right the way through the network in and around the South and at the top of that is the fantastic academy setup at the Broncos.

“Without doubt there would be an impact on those clubs [if the London Broncos were to drop out of Super League or suffer a worse fate]. Of course they would still survive but there would be something missing really for those players who have got the opportunity at the moment to join an elite training squad at the Broncos.”

He says that, despite a host of recent high-profile financial problems for the sport, clubs like the Skolars and Hemel are self-sufficient and are not making contingency plans but believes there is a real will from a huge majority of people to ensure the Broncos do survive anyway.

“It wouldn’t affect us financially because we are a well-run, self-sufficient club. There have been well-publicised setbacks for rugby league in the past year or so. With Sport England funding finishing for community coaches, we have all had to fund our own community departments and trim them down accordingly. We all have to be self-sufficient though with our own partners, sponsors and RFL funding though, so it would have an impact but not financially,” he said.

“We believe that the Broncos will survive and need to survive but there will need to be a proper strategy with an appropriate budget for rugby league in London if they don’t. I think it’s recognised by everybody that this needs to be supported. We are not cut adrift from the heartland but the structure is quite different down here and there just needs to be a carefully planned strategy as far as London is concerned.

“We are not working on any contingency for the Broncos not being around next year because we are hoping and believing that something positive will happen. It may be a case of taking a couple of steps back to take a step forward in terms of restructuring but I think there is certainly a desire at the top in rugby league for there to be a London club in Super League.”

Williams is another pulling for the Broncos to come out the other side of any difficulties but says that Hemel Stags is a well-run club in its own right and that there would be both pros and cons if there were to be no London club in Super League.

“It is a shame the situation the Broncos are in and I really hope they find their way out,” he said.

“I think it would have a negative impact but I think there could be positive things to take out of it as well.

“One of the possible negatives for the sport as a whole in London and the South East would be that fewer players might be inclined to play in the academy if they don’t have anyone to play for in terms of getting a full-time professional contract. That being said, we would lose less of our junior players to the Broncos academy, which would be positive from our point of view.

“Actually we may well get a few more season ticket holders because there is a pocket of rugby league fans in the South East and they are all willing to travel quite a distance.

“We are a club in the heart of the community, we have got sponsors that are all new to the sport, we have got fans that have been our fans for quite a long time now and have picked up quite a few new fans this year as well. We are a business and we have been here for 32 years and aren’t going anywhere.”

The fate of the Broncos as a Super League club or a club at all remains up in the air and Ledger confirmed that the RFL has informed them that the bottom two next season will be relegated if the changes to the structure of the professional game come into force and there will be no special dispensation for either London or Catalans.

He says there is still a commitment and determination at the governing body to make the sport a success in the capital and believes the RFL can help in terms of the focus on young talent in the South East if the Broncos can get their house in order financially.

“There are benefits from the sport having a presence in London. Clearly, the London Broncos have experienced significant difficulties in the last few years, so talks are now underway to try to keep London Broncos going as a Super League club in 2014. But the need to build on the success of the community game in London is separate from that,” he said.

“There is a real appetite and a real hunger to play rugby league in London amongst juniors and amateur players and ideally you want to continue that and provide them with a professional club to aspire to be part of.

“Obviously it has been a bit of a bumpy ride and there is a lot of work to do between now and the start of next season just to get them to the starting line but it would be a tragedy if the baby or the academy was thrown out with the bathwater.

“The academy system is working and we want to make sure that the positives of that system are kept in place and looked after.”

More news is expected on the Broncos’ future in the next few weeks and CEO Gus Mackay confirmed in a statement that all of the options are being considered.

“We are working through a number of key issues and all the players and staff have today been engaged in meetings and are fully up to date on the situation. We have to reduce our cost base so that we can ensure the future of the club which is our priority,” he said.

“We are involved in ongoing discussions in relation to the 2014 season, following a detailed exploration of the options over recent months. Negotiations are at a sensitive stage but discussions are progressing as we go into the necessary details.”

Source: runningrugby.com
Photo Credit: SWpix.com