Friday, 14 September 2018

Sunday's Coming: Leigh (Plus an Existential Crisis)

Where to start with the profligate basket-case that is Leigh Centurions. Rumoured to have burned a jaw-dropping £1.25m this year (a £750k + a £500k parachure payment from SL’s slush-fund), the Leythers spectacularly imploded: missing out on the top-four, brutally cost-cutting to get to the end of the season, a mass player exodus - and owner Derek Beaumont turning off the money-tap as he prepares to walk away from the burning wreckage.
Bonfire of the Vanities: Derek Beaumont burns a million quid.

We have the list of departees as: Daniel Mortimer , Kyle Lovett. Peter Matautia, Harrison Hansen, Bodene Thompson, Jordan Thompson, Ben Crooks, Craig Hall - and ‘football director’ Keiron Cunningham .

Word from the mean streets of Leigh is that Centurions coach Kieron Purtill has been busy converting local amateurs playing in Leigh’s reserve side to first-grade contracts to make-up the numbers.

Leigh are still a very capable side though, coming into Sunday’s game on the back of a 54-10 flogging of Swinton (who were nilled in the second half - force-fed 34 unanswered points). Indeed, since the arse fell out of the club, Leigh have won four of their last five games - their only defeat coming at Post Office Road against a Fev side with only 14 fit players.

That defeat will probably cost Leigh home advantage in the final of the ‘Trophy That No-one Wants To Win™’ - the  Championship Shield.  Lovers of irony will appreciate that two clubs who bet the farm on getting in the top four, failed, suffered a player exodus, made a shitload of noise in the media about having lost a fortune, then packaged it as a ‘restructure’ to make themselves feel less guilty about their reckless spending, wlll have their hubris rewarded with a cup final.

Derek Beaumont was trying his hardest to put a positive spin on the Championship Shield in a statrement on the club’s website last month: “… before I go we have the chance to win one last thing, something we have never won before, and it would be great if we could go out on a high from such a low position and get that final to be at LSV and lift the Shield for our outstanding fans…”

After the Featherstone defeat, that’s highly liklely to be another target missed.

It’s interesting that we debate the significant risks involved in gambling everything on (over-) reaching for the promised-land of Super League on the day when the game faces what feels like one of the most decisive days in its recent history.

Today the Championship and League one clubs stand against a proposed SL restructure/re-cut of funding that could see money funneled out of the lower tiers and into the top flight beyond the new TV deal in 2021.

Cash Crisis: the figures provided at Thursday's
Championship/League 1 Clubs Advisory Group
Press Conference at Odsal.
Indeed, the two issues of ’structure’ and ‘funding’ have become inextricablty entwined as i) Super League Europe Ltd. seek to remove the ‘jeopardy’ of putting four clubs in peril every year - and maintain the level of funding that they’ve become used to: ii) Championship and League 1 clubs seek to maintan a more open pathway to Super League and retain the level of central funding that they see as vital to their survival and iii) the RFL dithers somewhere in between, given that the money it receives from the TV deal - as a governing body - is generously handed down from Super League Europe Ltd for distribution.

So what we have here is a three-way stand-off: Super League controls the money, but can’t push through a structure change; the RFL controls the structure, but not the money coming into the game; the Championship/League 1 clubs (plus the seven RFL council votes held by the community game) have the voting clout to stifle Super League’s plans, but have no control over the amount of funding they receive.

It’s a divisive issue - and one that will test clubs’ consciences and alliances to the limit. Given TLCRF80mins position of treating anything that Super League Europe Ltd does with extreme suspicion (they do what’s good for them first and don’t consider the whole-game), we stand behind any option that helps secure the future of all clubs - big and small.

There are clubs in Super League who were previously in the Championship - and clubs in League 1 who were previously in ‘The Elite’ - and everyone could do well to remember that success is cyclical. Votes cast today represent one moment in time, so we urge clubs to consider what’s best for the whole game, long-term.

See you Sunday - assuming we're still here...