These are interesting and challenging times

NEVER has there been a greater need for rugby league fans to show their true allegiance to their club.

Don’t ask Chris, Scott or Anne, read instead the thoughts of League Express’s Championship and League 1 specialist Gareth Walker in last week’s issue.

He wrote:

These are interesting and challenging times for all clubs outside of Super League.

As outlined on the news pages of League Express, the RFL has tabled plans to run an extra cup competition next year that could have its final at Wembley.

(It is now confirmed that 12 Championship clubs and four from League 1 will compete for the 1895 Cup with the final at Wembley on the same day as the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final)

Moving the Summer Bash and launching a 9s competition are also possibilities currently on the table.

This is all part of a bigger plan for the game outside of Super League to make itself more attractive and become more self-sufficient by the time the next television deal is finalised.

Under the terms of the agreement that was voted on by all RFL Council members in September, clubs in the Championship and League One are only guaranteed continued central funding should the deal that is struck reach a certain financial level.

The loss of central funding would be a devastating blow to virtually every club outside of the top flight and, at least, there has been a realisation that action needs to be taken NOW to prepare for the worst case scenario.

In that sense the clubs and governing body are showing the kind of forward thinking that the sport is often accused of lacking.

But it comes at a time when a number of clubs are already struggling badly.

The two most obvious and public cases are at Leigh Centurions and Keighley Cougars, for differing but equally serious reasons.

The future of both clubs is uncertain at present, at a time when most teams are returning to pre-season training ahead of the 2019 campaign.

And it’s fair to say that if you took the central funding away across the board tomorrow, the vast majority of clubs would also be in financial trouble.

So planning ahead is undoubtedly a positive, and also includes a change in the way that RFL distribution is handed out, which will be covered in more depth in the coming weeks.

Basically, it makes clubs accountable for their operations and means they will have to tick several boxes covering a wide range of issues to receive their full central distribution.

(You can read a piece by Dave Naylor, our volunteer web and social media expert, which outlines what will be needed in his field of operation).

That might be criticised by some, but it should ensure that clubs get several fundamental basics right to help them run their own businesses over the long term.

The RFL are usually the go-to target for criticism when clubs find themselves in financial difficulty but each club has to be responsible for its own business.

There are, of course, several of them at this level that manage to operate successfully without ever seemingly finding themselves in serious financial trouble.

Perhaps their models should be rolled out as examples to others, should they be willing of course, because the game as a whole outside Super League needs the kind of collective spirit that has been evident at times this year when they were bristling against top-flight proposals.

That coming together of club chairmen, whatever your opinion on their stance, should be continued, sharing best practices and discussing competition-wide issues regularly.

Financial prudence and realism is key for the game at this level.

These are interesting and challenging times for sure. Let’s hope the clubs and the RFL, working together, can find the right path forward.

Gareth Walker

So there you have it, writes Roger Halstead, the Roughyeds’ volunteer media manager.

There are many things the club can do to help itself, and those are under discussion as we speak.

In the final analysis, though, it will be the people of Oldham who decide whether they want a professional club in the town and, if so, to what level it can realistically aim and hopefully achieve.

Gates need to increase significantly, as do season-ticket sales, lottery membership numbers (it’s only £1 a week), income from sponsorship, increased match-day programme sales etc etc.

All these initiatives have to be led by the club, which is currently putting together an interesting and an attractive squad for 2019 which so far includes six new signings in Richie Hawkyard, Anthony Bowman, Jamie Greenwood, Aaron Jones-Bishop, Ben Calland and Danny Grimshaw.

Grimshaw, admittedly, has been here before, but he’s not the first to come back — Dave Hewitt, Adam Neal, Jack Holmes have all done it in recent years — and that in itself shows that players know they are well treated and well cared for in the Roughyeds camp.

The immediate need is for increased season-ticket sales, which are on offer until December 14 at discounted prices and with a gift of a newly-designed Roughyeds scarf for ever season-ticket sold.

For prices and the various ways in which you can purchase you will find full details on this website.

It was the late, great John F Kennedy who once said famously: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Just a thought !

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