Leagues.....A new season is upon us. All clubs, wherever and whatever their role in the vast myriad of Leagues scattered around the country, are already looking at the odds surrounding their ability to achieve promotion or suffer relegation. Or better still, to remain in a League which suits them both financially and travel wise. Few secretaries are looking at the fixture list and preparing for an Easter Tour or a mini 1stXV abroad as was common in days of yore. Before the introduction of the League format! So what is the true value of such a structure at the lower levels of the sport when many are outlaying hard earned cash to players who are hardly worthy of the rank of" Professional"? And when many hard pressed treasurers are suffering off the pitch attempting to meet the ever growing financial demands of simply maintaining a club.

Has the obsession with a rigid national League structure at the lower levels of Rugby Union created a problem for many who simply wish to enjoy themselves on and off the pitch without the doom and gloom which surrounds the clubhouse when relegation becomes a reality? Are clubs paying out sums of money to two or three players in a team to help keep them in a particular league? Players whose playing abilities give them no right to be classed as "Professionals"? I'm sure they are. Butfor what purpose?

Where are the club rugby tours of yesteryear when twenty or thirty players and committee men would travel the length and breadth of the British Isles to play a couple of games and have a mini rugby holiday together. I well recall some trips to the Continent, Ireland, Scotland, and elsewhere with the St.Helens RU club - trips which fostered a camaraderie and spirit throughout the club. And the players came home with a smile and an uplifting experience whether they had gained a win, suffered a loss, or battled bravely for a draw.

The League structure does, admittedly, allow a club (often backed by a "Sugar Daddy") to reach any ambitions it has and to arrive at its destination as quickly as possible. For such clubs the format is a worthwhile one for as long as the money rolls in from 'the backers ' and the supporters pass through the turnstiles. But for many at the lower levels the League commitments should not be too demanding of players and club members who simply wish to enjoy a match on a Saturday afternoon, who relish the social atmosphere within their club, and who look forward to travelling to places anew.    

Ray French

August 2018