With Steve Mascord
UNLIKE Manchester Rangers, New York City Rugby League seem certain to at least get the chance to present to their would-be fellow League 1 clubs before the door is slammed in their faces.
Speculation that the NYC bid to follow Toronto into the British rugby league structure was about to be turned down exploded on the weekend, leading a number of Championship and League 1 teams to hurriedly deny they’d ever been asked to vote on the issue.
NYC bid lead Ricky Wilby and RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer were in the hospitality room at Newcastle’s Kingston Park on Saturday; so was I. The only way there would have been time for a vote between then and the emergence of speculation is if the decision was being taken on a straw poll of the other clubs present: Toronto, Widnes, Doncaster and Newcastle.
Oh, I forgot: Toronto don’t get a vote because they are “not members of the RFL”.
From what I’ve been able to ascertain since, the RFL are not going to do to the Big Apple what they did to the city of bees – ask for financial guarantee (one, NYC have offered that anyway and two, there is a dispute about whether it was actually £500,000 in the case of Manchester) and send them packing.
Instead, the former denizens of Red Hall will leave it to the Championship and League 1 clubs to decide if they want to ask players to take days off work to cross the Atlantic and what conditions they believe should be placed on the new team.
What’s interesting is that if Super League clubs had the choice of whether a team from the other side of the pond was to enter the system – which may one day lead that team to their back door – they might be more xenophobic that the lower division sides running on the smell of an oily rag.
If you’re Sheffield or Newcastle, New York City coming to town sounds very glamorous and good for business because your crowds aren’t that big to start with. If you’re St Helens or Castleford, on the other hand … how many pies and pints are you going to sell to Noo Yoikers?
NYC believe that if they are given the chance to address clubs, they are confident of – to borrow an American saying – knocking that opportunity out of the park like the Wolfpack did.
But here’s my second point – and I was originally going to devote all of this week’s Discord to this thought
Manchester, New York, a possible Hemel transferred to Hamilton, Ontario by Eric Perez – all these teams won’t be accepted. Manchester have already been brushed.
In 2019, that should not mean being lost to the sport.
The RFL sees itself as the gatekeepers of the game who therefore can ask for any cover price at the door of their party. But is it a party you really want to go to, when you look at what has just happened at Widnes?
Outside England we have a Balkan Super League which seems to be evolving into a Pan European League with the inclusion of teams from places such as Italy this year.
Sure, as we saw when Red Star were whipped at Millom, it’s a low standard. But do the sports fans of New York or Hamilton, Ontario know or care what high standard rugby league is?
For that matter, would the office workers of central Manchester rather see their team play Batley or Belgrade? What’s going to impress them more?
Just because you’ve been excluded from an ailing, marginalised and financially strapped organisation should not mean you’ve been excluded from rugby league.
They might be even doing you a favour.