Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/575/7176

From The Socialist newspaper, 15 April 2009

Rugby league: In League with big business?

AS TOP-flight football becomes more and more under the control of ridiculously wealthy individuals and businesses, we can learn from the creation of another of England's most played and supported sports.

Rugby League was born out of the northern working class' desire to play sport without fear of reducing their meagre incomes or putting their jobs at risk. By the late 19th century the three major British sports had already begun to form league structures, with football even forming a professional body in 1885.

But sports, whose rules were largely formed and made official by the upper class, were mostly amateur. This prevented the working class from taking a full role. Workers faced long working days, poor nutrition and often did hard physical jobs. Organised sport at a high level was often left to those with the money and lifestyle to support training sessions and regular matches.

In rugby, increasingly popular in the north, especially around West Yorkshire and Lancashire, a generation of talented working-class players had become frustrated at being forced to miss games because of work or to miss work through injury.

The owners of northern rugby clubs were forced to reflect this anger. So when the southern-dominated Rugby Football Union refused to allow working players to be compensated for missing work due to rugby the northern clubs broke away, forming what became the Rugby League.

Its creation reflected the working class' growing power. RL became, for the northern masses, a rallying point and an example of the pride felt in watching fellow workers allowed to perform at their best - a sensation far from that felt watching football's Premier League today.

The revenue game

Bearing its history in mind, the formation of the top-flight British Super League, is a betrayal of the values that the sport held on to for most of the 20th century. Super League was formed in 1996, bringing with it higher TV revenues but imposing some serious changes in the game.

One was the shift to a summer season which, due to matches being played on firmer ground, made the game much faster. This necessitated ever fitter, more superhuman players, generally limiting the playing of the sport at a high level to those with a naturally large frame and powerful physique.

Also negatively, it led to cheap US-style commercialisation of the sport, with cheerleaders and silly name changes. Historic teams such as Bradford Northern and Wakefield Trinity became Bradford Bulls and Wakefield Wildcats.

The new Super League, trying to draw in a new rugby league market, included 'expansion' teams in areas with no RL traditions, such as northern France and London. Neither fared well financially nor drew in supporters.

The economic calamities didn't stop there. In 1999 the RFL reduced the number of top-level teams, offering clubs a 1 million bribe to merge. This was taken up by teams struggling financially. Hull Sharks and Gateshead Thunder merged, as did Huddersfield Giants and Sheffield Eagles, robbing communities of local teams.

The latest development is Super League's franchise system, imported from the US sports world. It removes the threat of relegation, thereby guaranteeing TV revenues and encouraging greater investment in clubs. Yet the criteria for entry to the franchise are mostly financial - how well the team plays or their fan base are secondary considerations.

The spectre is there of RL becoming like the football Premier League. Already a few big teams tend to dominate the league, while more fans are priced out of watching their local teams play (adult ticket prices increased dramatically under the Super League).

Top RL players are still closer to their communities than in football; the sport has retained its working class fan base. Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield visited the Yorkshire Post strikers' picket line last month.

But rugby league has degenerated, aided by the profit-hungry league owners and media backers. This reinforces the need for democratic planning of the sport by representatives from the local areas, supporters' groups, players and coaches.

Ian Slattery and Iain Dalton

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 15 April 2009:

MPs' snouts in the expenses trough


Stop the slaughter of Tamils

Sri Lanka: Stop the war - fight for democratic rights

Stop the war in Sri Lanka: Protest at India House


Socialist Party election campaign

European elections: Why No2EU?


Socialist Party workplace news

Visteon workers angry and determined

National Union of Teachers conference: Battle on workload begins

London Underground: Set a new strike date

Fury at John Lewis' trickery

Preparing to fight probation meltdown


Youth fight for jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs: What next to build the campaign?


Marxist analysis: history

The Spanish Civil War: Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory


Socialist Party editorial

Deceptive denigration of Lindsey strike


Socialist Party campaigns

G20 Summit death: Bring the cops to account

Council manoeuvres in Lewisham hit school children

Parents occupy schools in Glasgow to stop closures

Fast news


International socialist news and analysis

Thailand: Battles erupt on the streets of Bangkok

Moldova: Thousands storm parliament buildings as economic crisis worsens


Sport

Rugby league: In League with big business?


 

Home   |   The Socialist 15 April 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Sport:

triangleCapitalism v cricket

triangleGentrification on the terraces: fans say twenty's plenty

triangleDon't wreck our rec! Campaigning to save green space in Standish

triangleUS: women ice hockey players' strike threat wins living wage

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Rugby League:

triangleRugby League: Have Featherstone fans got their club back?

Big business:

triangle600 more retail jobs on the line: workers must not pay for the bosses' high street crunch!

triangle#AmazonTax shows need for socialist fighters

triangleSeattle council repeals Amazon Tax

Football:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleHull City supporters fight to reclaim their club and the game

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

17/7/18

Swansea

Victory for Swansea postal workers against management victimisation

16/7/18

Far-right

Confronting the FLA pro-Trump demo - build a workers movement to defeat the far-right

13/7/18

Socialist Students

School students protest and walk out against Trump

11/7/18

National Shop Stewards Network

NSSN conference 2018: Mood for fighting action and coordination

11/7/18

Donald Trump

Hit the streets against Trump and capitalism

11/7/18

The Socialist

Issue 1000 drive shows sales potential

11/7/18

Fighting Fund

Tories fractured... election possibility... give us the resources!

11/7/18

NHS

Yes to NHS - No to PFI!

11/7/18

Leeds

NHS Leeds: Campaigners halt outsourcing... for now

11/7/18

Domestic violence

Women's Lives Matter launched in Leeds to fight domestic violence service cuts

11/7/18

Unite

Unite conference sees union go in a fighting, socialist direction

11/7/18

Tyneside

Tyneside shopfitting plant lays off 61 workers

11/7/18

Huddersfield

Summer of discontent on the cards in Huddersfield bin workers' dispute

11/7/18

Hackney

Hackney traffic wardens strike for better pay and protection at work

11/7/18

PCS

Campaign in full flow to squeeze out every last Yes vote in pay ballot

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999