Feelgood factor harmed by London Broncos’ likely demise

London club at risk while 65,000 fans will watch England’s World Cup semi-final at Wembley today

Rugby League Correspondent

These are wildly contrasting – even contradictory – times for rugby league in London.

Today at Wembley, there will be the biggest ever World Cup crowd outside a final to see the most important game so far in a tournament that has been hailed as a huge success, when England play the holders, New Zealand.

A few miles away, the club that has been the senior professional presence in the capital for the past 32 years could be receiving the last rites. The London Broncos have announced their intention to go into administration. They have no ground for next season, hardly any players and a reservoir of goodwill that is almost drained dry.

It is as far from the mood of celebration that surrounds the World Cup – at least until the Kiwis get hold of England this afternoon – as it is possible to be. It is a contrast that goes to the heart of the game’s troubles in this country.

On the one hand, its central administration is solvent and can, when it puts its mind to it, put on a show like the one we have enjoyed for the last month. On the other, a steadily increasing number of clubs, among whom the Broncos are just the most extreme example, are broke and unviable.

The Broncos hope that talks with Barnet Football Club will come to fruition, but there are no guarantees.

It is remarkable timing for them to step towards the edge of the precipice in the same week that the game will demonstrate a real national profile. Of the 65,000 tickets sold for today, a high proportion have been bought from addresses in the south; those fans just cannot be bothered with a franchise as moth-eaten as the Broncos.

News of the impending administration came the day after next season’s Super League fixtures were published, with the Broncos included. Timing, again: a bit like six Super League clubs walking out of a meeting to discuss structural change on the eve of the World Cup. The game certainly knows how to complicate a feelgood  factor.

Even if England beat the Kiwis today– even if they win the World Cup next Saturday – it will not solve everything, but it will be an exceptionally brave effort at papering over the cracks.

New Zealand represent a formidable obstacle but the England coach, Steve McNamara, should be congratulated for having the courage to make major changes when the circumstances demand them.

He revealed at Wembley yesterday that Rangi Chase’s reaction to being dropped was to ask to be released from the squad this weekend, to spend time with his heavily pregnant partner.

“He wasn’t picked and people deal with that in different ways,” McNamara said. “There’s no issue between him and me. Rangi has been very good for this team for a long period of time.”

McNamara is now convinced that Gareth Widdop’s very different style of half-back play is what is needed against the Kiwis. “Gareth is ideal for the game we want to play this week,” he said.

New Zealand are without the menacing bulk of Manu Vatuvei, a player who has always given England trouble, on the left wing, but instead they have a stealthy poacher of tries in Jason Nightingale.

They also have the most talented player in the tournament in Sonny Bill Williams – a player England must on no account stand back and admire.

Williams was named yesterday as one of three players on the short list to be International Player of the Year. The other nominees are Danny Brough, the English-born Scotland scrum-half, who was frozen out of England contention by McNamara, and Australia’s Greg Inglis.

Many wish that Brough was still wearing a white shirt with an irregular red cross at Wembley this afternoon, so the nomination announcement is yet another case of perfect timing.

Inglis, meanwhile, moves from centre to full-back for the injured Billy Slater in Australia’s semi-final against Fiji, the match that forms the second half of the double-header.

Fiji have improved steadily through the tournament, but if they were to beat the Kangaroos it would be one of the game’s biggest ever shocks.


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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living