Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Has the Northern Rail Cup HIt the Buffers?

And lo, it appears that South Wales Scorpions - the RFL's flaghship expansion club in South Wales - duck a midweek fixture because they're unable to raise a team.

Unprofessional? Yes. Dissapointing? Well...

Some people have been quick to point out that football teams (and their fans) regulalry have to travel the length of the country to play midweek games. The thing is that Association Footballers are full time - it's their job to go to the opposite end of the country to play on a Wednesday night. 

This is about dragging part-time lads on a ten hour round trip to play a meaningless game in front of a small crowd that most likely won't care about the outcome. Football at the level where crowds are similar to ours is regionalised to prevent long, expensive trips. Common sense.

If the RFL had applied common sense and voided this game rather than insisting it went ahead, we wouldn't have this embarrassing situation (there is a precedent with Doncaster v Crusaders a couple of years ago - and, I believe, that this year's Skolars v Toulouse has been scrubbed).

But what this situation does do is amplify the issues around the scheduling and structure of the NRC.

Only half a dozen teams have a realistic chance of getting to the final (indeed, 7 of the eight qualifiers this time were from CC1 and Barrow sneaked thru' on points difference); gates aren't (to my knowledge) split, so there's an inbalance in the financial aspect; three-quarters of coaches involved are realistic about their chances and use it as a series of friendlies to run the rule over squad players (and supporters see it as that too) - and we end up - again - with teams struggling to meet their obligations and the RFL voiding matches (neither of which does much for the credibility of the game or the sponsor).

In an age where the RFL is insisting that clubs be more financially astute, everyone I've spoken to seems to agree that the costs to both clubs (travel, match payments, stewarding etc) would likely outweigh any revenue raised. 

And you do have to wonder whether someone at The Gnoll has weighed up the cost of a fine for a no-show against the cost of feeding and transporting and paying 20 blokes who would have to take at least one day off work to play?

The Northern Rail Cup needs a very careful reassessment before we embark on this ridiculous journey again next year because - for the majority of clubs involved - it's a basket case.