Harrison believes Rugby League needs to re-focus

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Former Great Britain star Karl Harrison believes the Rugby Football League have got their strategy wrong as they look to grow the sport to a wider audience.

The Batley Bulldogs coach is convinced the governing body should be doing more to promote the game in the traditional areas of the country where Rugby League is already popular rather than trying to attract an audience in other parts of the UK.

Harrison airs his forthright views in the Independent's latest Tryline Rugby League podcast, and he is calling on the RFL to rethink their priorities when they meet this summer to map out the planning process for the criteria required for clubs to be awarded three year Super League licenses in 2012

He said: "There has not been enough investment in the heartlands. We seem to put money in to South Wales, France and this that and the other but the heartland is where the kids come from. It's fantastic that they play in other parts of the world, and the country, but in my opinion we need to look at the heartlands first."

The heartlands to which he refers are around Oldham, his current club Batley and neighbouring Dewsbury, known locally as the old heavy-woollen area. The former England coach thinks that the expansion of the game should be run like a business, which means you have to be strong at your core before pushing boundaries.

He continued: "I believe Rugby League to be the greatest sport in the world but it is a minority sport, a northern based sport predominantly, and we need to look after the heartlands first."

Harrison has been involved in the Rugby League for many years, having signed professionally in 1982, and his beliefs are part of his passion for the game and that love of Rugby League has been reignited in his role as the Bulldogs coach after the disappointment of his sacking from Salford in 2007. He initially took the job as stand-in for a month until a permanent replacement was appointed, but eight months later he still in place and enjoying every minute of it.

The ex-Hull and Halifax prop said: "I got the bug back; I really enjoy being around the young guys again and working hard with them."

And he is looking forward to the Challenge Cup game against Siddal at the weekend which has thrown up an unusual situation for Bulldogs star winger Lee Greenwood, who is also the coach of their amateur cup opponents. The draw certainly left Greenwood with something of a dilemma about who to represent this weekend, until Harrison resolved the situation by making the decision for him.

The Batley boss said: "Lee has been banned from training this week with us because I think he deserved the right to coach his team. He's an up and coming young coach and he has coached the team from the very first round of the Challenge Cup to this level and beat Doncaster in the last round."

You can hear more of Harrison's views on all of the subjects above in this latest podcast, plus his views on England's search for Tony Smith's successor and the importance of a good cup run and how that can affect smaller clubs finances.

Click here to listen to Tryline, or alternatively, listen to or subscribe to Tryline on iTunes by clicking here.