Earthy foundations for Super structure

BOOK OF THE WEEK; To Jerusalem and Back by Simon Kelner (Macmillan, pounds 14.95)

A group of four of us, walking through London after its launch with a book of this title under our arms, must have looked suspiciously like evangelists for a religious sect. "Many people in this day and age have lost interest in rugby league, but, as you can see here in Chapter Four, Verse iii ..."

The good news, or the bad, depending on your creed, is that my colleague Simon Kelner's book is no fundamentalist testament. I have a feeling that it began as that, as an act of faith and anger, but it mellowed along the way.

"To Jerusalem and Back" sets out to be several things: an interim history of the game; a personal account of falling under its thrall; the story of the Super League revolution and a portrait of its representative in Britain, Maurice Lindsay. It cannot, in 172 pages, do all of these things in detail, but it does them all in enough style for the various strands to benefit from their juxtaposition with each other.

The book would never have been written had it not been for Kelner's passionate affiliation with his club, Swinton, so it should not be surprising that it is the exploration of that relationship, tied up as it is with family and sense of identity, that is its great strength. There has not been much written that compares with it as a picture of what it is to be a rugby league fan.

The history goes over some familiar ground, as it must, but looking at it through the lens of Super League throws the crises of the past into fresh perspective. But the point of the exercise is surely that issue of Super League, and here Kelner's gut reaction of extreme distaste has smoothed out during the writing of this book to a sense of disquiet and uncertainty.

As the cults know, breadth of knowledge is the enemy of simplistic certainty, and Kelner has discovered that there is no straightforward answer to the question: "Well, what would you have done if Rupert Murdoch had offered you pounds 87m?"

You would not have to see too many balance sheets before realising that there is no easy response to that one.

Like many full-scale biographers, Kelner has warmed to his subject in the section of the book that deals with Lindsay and his part in the changes the game is going through. Here he has found, like others before him, that the chief executive of the Rugby Football League can be infinitely more charming and plausible than his public image would ever suggest.

I doubt whether he went into RFL head-quarters thinking so, but the writer came away believing that he and the administrator shared the same goals and differed only on methods and priorities. The result is that the treatment is scrupulously balanced and even goes out of its way to be fair to a controversial figure.

They were worried about this book at the League; they need not have been. It is valuable, but it is not dangerous.

DAVE HADFIELD

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Production Technician is required to join a ...

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer - Hosted Telecommunications

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Ne...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor / Partner - Cheltenham

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: A very rare high level opportunity with a fir...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor of electronics...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower