Memorandum submitted by Mr Terry Wynn
1.1 Rugby League and Rugby Union are two
distinctly different games as explained by the RFL in their written
submission and by Neil Tunnicliffe at the hearing of the Committee
1.2 When the RFU accepted professionalism,
I imagined that some time in the future the two codes could evolve
into one. However, after being present at both the Wigan v Bath
games it was obvious how wide the gulf was between the two and
that they were indeed totally different except for the shape of
the ball and the goalposts.
1.3 Rugby League is more than a sport, for
those in its heartland in the North of England it is a cultural
identity, a passion, a way of life. Its history is one of determination
to succeed against the establishment, to fight discrimination
and intolerance and to be an honest sport.
1.4 The reason that MEPs created the Inter-Group
(ie All Party, Cross Nationality) in the European Parliament was
to raise the issue of discrimination. To be barred from playing
Rugby Union because you had connections with Rugby League is akin
to being barred from playing table tennis because you once played
tennis. It was in effect a simple matter of human rights.
1.5 Colleagues in the European Parliament
found it had to comprehend some of the examples we used. The situation
was even worse in France.
1.6 Since the work of the Westminster Parliamentary
R.L. group and the hearings of the National Heritage Committee
which led to the RFU changing its attitude towards professionalism,
the situation in the UK has been changed considerably.
2.1 Rugby League will always be played in
the North of England because of its cultural roots and because
of the work of the volunteers who run the amateur game.
2.2 Rather than be seen as an historical
pastime the game has the ability to reach many more young people
to enable them to become true athletes, as the modern game requires.
2.3 The pro clubs need to be encouraged
to develop more youngsters and I see no reason why the RFL cannot
be treated in the same way as Association Football by the DfEE
as outlined in paragraph 5.12 of the RFL written evidence to the
2.4 Rugby League demands good ball handling
skills, strength and speed. Young people who learn it can develop
into both RL or RU players. (The reason the Australian RU team
is so good is because they all played RL at school). The RFL must
be helped to develop young players.
3.1 Young spectators want to see sporting
heroes, of which there are plenty, in Rugby League. Unfortunately
the majority of stadia that they watch them in are decrepit.
3.2 As Maurice Lindsay said in his submission
at Wigan, ways have to be found to build community stadia with
the help of the government and local authorities to give the public
decent facilities, as in France where there seems to be a municipal
stadium in every town and village.
3.3 The smaller Rugby League communities
such as Widnes, Leigh, Featherstone, Keighley etc deserve decent
facilities. Some have now achieved them, but others still need
and deserve help.
4.1 The game is a terrific spectator sport
but has too often been treated with contempt by the national media.
The predominance of soccer in all aspects of sports coverage is
squeezing out other games. Rugby League has no divine right to
coverage but it should expect respect for the quality of player
that performs in the modern game.
4.2 Sky Sports coverage has revolutionised
the presentation of the game, it's a pity the BBC can't compare
to it. The problem is that the TV audience is small compared to
terrestrial coverage, which helps keep it off the columns of London
based national newspapers.
4.3 The new "Superleague Show"
on BBC2 in the North on Monday evenings is a real help, but it
shows the attitude of the BBC to a game that is played nationally
at amateur level.
5.1 As far as summer rugby is concerned,
I have always advocated the case for it, whether as a teenage
player covered in mud, freezing cold and unable to untie bootlaces
because of numb fingers, or as a spectator fed up of watching
too many mud-bath matches at the same time as being soaked to
5.2 The standard of play at present is probably
better than it has ever been and the hard, fast surfaces of summer
have contributed towards this.
5.3 Talk of reduced attendances does not
apply to all clubs. The biggest fall being at Wigan which affects
the total figure considerably, but that is because of turmoil
within the club ie change of ownership, sale of ground. Add to
which Wigan fans are fickle (I am a Wigan supporter) and the club
has failed to promote the game like Leeds or Bradford, also it
has no Chief Executive or decent promotional programme. One can
only assume the club is waiting until it moves into the new stadium.
5.4 What does discourage fans are the changes
of match dates and times to accommodate Sky coverage. As a season
ticket holder, I was tempted not to renew my tickets this season
because I missed so many games last season due to dates and times
being altered, especially when holidays had been booked around
6.1 Rugby League people are often left frustrated
because the game never quite gets the recognition it deserves,
never quite makes full use of its potential and never quite exists
in harmony with itself. Yet it has contributed for 104 years to
the sporting and cultural life of this and other nations. Any
help the Committee can recommend for it to continue to do so would