Do I not like that . . .: Plans spell sudden death: Alex Murphy, the veteran rugby league coach, believes the sport's latest plans will drain its lifeblood

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The Independent Online
I AM not against progress and I accept that changes must be made to safeguard the future of rugby league, but I believe that the proposals that came from the sport's headquarters last week will kill our game, not save it.

To me, it reads like a charter under which the rich can get richer and the poor can get stuffed. If the smaller clubs accept it, it will mean the end of rugby league in many communities where it is the one thing that people can rally around.

One of the proposals was a 'super league' of 12 or 14 clubs, with no promotion or relegation for three years. I know exactly what that is going to do to the clubs that miss out. It is going to put them out of business. Remove their incentive and you remove their reason to exist - and the game will disappear from places where it has been played for almost 100 years. Make no mistake: this will be a death sentence for many of the greatest names in the game, just because they happen to be in a difficult position at the moment.

Nor do I believe it will be popular with fans of the teams that do make it into this premier league. Playing the same teams for three years without any new blood coming into the division is a recipe for boredom. What has been the best story of the season so far? No doubt in my mind: Doncaster's heroics as a promoted side. There would be none of that under the sterile system the League is trying to foist upon us.

There is plenty of other wrong- headed thinking in a report prepared by a market research company, the cost of which would have been better used to support the game.

It talks about mergers between clubs that are too close together, suggesting that they are fighting for the same small potential audience, but that ignores the fact that spectators are most interested in matches against traditional local rivals. How are you going to combine with a club that has been traditionally your deadliest enemy? This will mean alienating the die- hard supporters who are the lifeblood of the game. We drive them away from rugby league at our peril.

Then there was the proposal that we move towards a salary cap, despite all the evidence from Australia that it cannot be made to work. Clubs there have repeatedly been caught cheating the system, but I don't doubt that they are still doing it and getting away with it.

In Britain, it would be the big clubs who would be able to work all the fiddles - the cars and jobs and other perks - while the League takes a sledgehammer to the clubs who don't have the resources to skirt round the system.

The whole philosophy of these proposals is wrong. Just because you are, say, Wigan or Leeds, you do not have the right to get rid of clubs in which people have invested so much time and effort.

And why, might I ask, are we in this mess? Not just because of mismanagement at the smaller clubs - although I've seen plenty of that in my time - but because of the disastrous contract system for players pushed through by the fat cats a few years ago.

It is by paying ordinary players contracts that they cannot possibly afford that clubs have got in above their heads. Maurice Lindsay, then the chairman of Wigan and now the chief executive of the League, was the prime mover behind that, but I do not see anyone at Rugby League headquarters holding their hands up and accepting the blame.

It is Wigan who have the massive wage bill and who sent transfer fees into an inflationary spiral by paying pounds 440,000 for Martin Offiah, and yet it is the clubs who have never seen that amount of money who are now being called irresponsible. Instead of trying to get rid of clubs, the League should lift the millstone from their necks by abolishing a system under which players have been getting paid whether they have been playing or not.

At a stroke, that would solve a lot of the game's financial problems. In the meantime, I would urge club representatives who have to vote on these plans in detail next month to think very, very carefully before they do something that is going to put their clubs on the scrapheap.

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