POSITIVE COMMENTS about London Broncos are guaranteed to provoke a strong response.
There may not be much good to say about the Super League strugglers this year, but for some reason the capital outfit – who are inoffensive in most ways – seem to attract strong opinions, often negative.
Broncos may not have many fans, but the ones they do possess are as dedicated and loyal as any in the game. They don’t play a particularly unattractive style and don’t include – with the possible exception of Scott Moore – any players who get up opposition fans’ noses.
Their crime seems to be being based in the south, a couple of hundred miles from their nearest neighbours and struggling both on and off the field.
When – it’s not an if – Broncos are relegated at the end of this year, their demise will be celebrated by many of the game’s northern-based supporters.
That’s a shame, particularly as London were founder members of Super League – though not promoted on merit – and have never finished bottom of the table.
Cheshire will be the deep south of England as far as Super League is concerned next season, which hardly promotes the notion of rugby league as a national game.
Much of the malice seems to be based on the myth London receive special treatment from the RFL, that the game in the capital has been given “long enough” and too much money has been thrown at it.
London’s top club has, in fact, been kept alive by the generosity of several benefactors and they do not receive any central funding which is not available to other sides.
In fact, the RFL could have done more to support Broncos by introducing a London weighting to the salary cap. Though they aren’t spending the full amount this year, in the past they have been hampered by being restricted to the same spending power as northern-based clubs, despite the cost of living in the capital being much higher.
London haven’t been well run, have had too many changes of name and different grounds to build their fans base and the team on the field has never been more than moderately successful.
Patience is wearing thin with London and that’s understandable. Their current side isn’t up to Super League standards – as their record of six straight defeats and the competition’s poorest attack and defence illustrates.
They play host to Castleford Tigers at The Hive tonight and, having attracted just 1,017 to their previous home game – against Wakefield on a Saturday afternoon – there’s every chance of a three-figure crowd, which would be embarrassing for the competition. That’s a failure of marketing; London don’t need to sell themselves to the entire capital, but just appealing to sports fans in Barnet and Harrow should bring in a couple of thousand at least.
But look below the surface and rugby league in the capital is flourishing at grassroots level, more children are playing the game than ever before and southern talent is beginning to filter through into Super League, both at London and elsewhere. There are some promising youngsters in Broncos’ senior side and coming through the ranks, but the chances are – with no top-level team to aim for next year – they will end up playing rugby union.
Rules are rules and if London finish in the bottom two they will have to go, but the last thing that should be is a cause for celebration, in the north or anywhere else.