Adam Cuthbertson: Clubs in Super League have to be strong on and off the field

Leeds Rhinos fans at the 'Super League Grand Final last year.
Leeds Rhinos fans at the 'Super League Grand Final last year.
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IN THE last two columns I’ve given some of my thoughts on where Super League should go from here and what can be done to improve the competition.

Thanks to everyone who has got in touch on Twitter, whether you agree with me or not. It’s always good to hear people’s different opinions.

One thing that has got people talking is my view that relegation from Super League should be scrapped. People have said ‘you can’t do that, because it is not fair on the Championship clubs’. I am maybe coming at things from a different angle because I have no emotional attachment to any particular club, other than Leeds of course, but there is one big point I want to make about this.

Clubs in Super League have to be strong on and off the field. It is not just about putting a good team together and winning the middle-eights competition, or finishing top of the Championship. There’s more to it than earning the right to be in Super League through the team’s performance; in this day and age marketing is everything with social media having such a big impact on all sports.

I can’t comment too much on other clubs, but two years ago at Leeds we had a really poor season. We were bottom of the table for a lot of it, we finished ninth and we had to go into the middle-eights.

Even so, we had bigger crowds and sold more merchandise than anybody else. That is what I am talking about.

Ryan Hall passes the ball to Matt Parcell in the 'Super League Grand Final last year.

Ryan Hall passes the ball to Matt Parcell in the 'Super League Grand Final last year.

Warrington still got five-figure attendances last year when they were in similar strife. Fortunately, both we and they came through the Qualifiers, but if either club had been relegated it would not have been good for the sport in the UK. Leeds – and Warrington as well from what I’ve heard – bring a massive amount to rugby league and Super League would be worse off without them.

You have to take a pragmatic approach. I don’t like referring to the NRL, but St George-Illawarra Dragons didn’t want to be St George-Illawarra Dragons. They did what they had to do, they were two separate clubs and fans were upset when they merged, but they had to put up with some short-term pain for long-term gain.

I’ve heard that mergers were spoken about in this country when Super League began, but they didn’t happen because fans were against the idea.

I wonder now if two Championship clubs would agree to merge if a Super League place was on offer. It is an option, but I am not actually in favour of mergers. I think we can get 12-14 strong Super League clubs without having to go down that route.

There’s more to it than earning the right to be in Super League through the team’s performance; in this day and age marketing is everything with social media having such a big impact on all sports.

Adam Cuthbertson

I know they have fallen on hard times, but Bradford could definitely sustain a Super League side and London probably could as well. I’ve talked about marketing and what the Rhinos have done with tonight’s game is a great example of that. They have pulled out all the stops and, hopefully, we’ll see at least a 20,000 crowd and maybe even a record one at Elland Road.

It is a game I wish I was playing in. When the fixtures came out I thought the games against Hull KR and Cas would be something special.

I got to experience Elland Road last month and I expect tonight will be even better. It’s a Friday night game, the crowd will be bigger and it’s two teams who are going well. It’s not exactly a Grand Final rematch, but it’s the sides who met at Old Trafford and it should be a cracker. Cas have a few casualties themselves and I think that will even things up a bit and the atmosphere is going to be electric.

I have got the big cast off my broken hand and I’m into a smaller one so I can lift weights and I have been running since last Monday.

That’s going to stand me in good stead when I get cleared to play. The lungs are feeling it a bit at the moment because I was ill last week, but match-fitness shouldn’t be too much of a problem because of the running I’ve been doing.

I’ve been out of it for five weeks now and it feels like forever. I’m hoping I’ll be back on the field in another three; I probably won’t make the Wakefield game on April 8, but I am looking at Wigan at Headingley the week after.