What an exciting weekend of football it was. The weekend that decided the future of a number of clubs.
We saw Burnley promoted to the Premier League, and Newcastle and Middlesbrough relegated to the Championship. Two days of edge-of-your-seat entertainment.
So what’s football got to do with rugby league?
Well, we don’t have that end of season excitement anymore. Big deal, Saints are going to finish top of the league again, it won’t matter, as they’ll just get beaten in the Grand Final (again).
And what about every one else? We’re nearing the stage of the season now where teams are going to start getting cut away from the top 8-10 teams, and essentially have nothing to play for.
Think back to a few years ago, when we were enthralled by gripping relegation battles, usually involving Castleford, and promotion to Super League was the dream to all.
Now, elevation to Super League is merely a dream that is only allowed to become reality to the chosen few e.g. those without a traditional rugby league postcode.
Hull KR are doing the name of promotion no harm at all. They are 2nd in Super League. They are currently the second best team in the land. And they deserve it.
After promotion in 2006, they developed the club, made some significant progress and established themselves as a top flight force even when relegation was still in place. Sure, they only finished 11th in season one, but look at their progress since.
Of course, there are arguments that back up the other side of the debate – Leigh’s capitulation in 2005, for instance – but there’s just an interest in promotion/relegation that has gripped the Great British nation for as long as anybody can remember.
Halifax are currently looking good to win the Championship, but for what? Sure, if they appear in the Grand Final (or win the Northern Rail Cup) they will qualify for the Super League licence process in 2012, but it’s by all means no guarantee they’ll get in to the top flight in three years – especially if Toulouse or Gateshead meet the qualifying criteria.
We’ve seen the competitive nature of Super League this season, but is this a result of the licensing process or a mere coincidence? The only team I can think of who have currently benefited from it are Castleford, who weren’t relegated last season, as would usually be the case. However, when you know you’re not going to be relegated, your mindset changes, and the Tigers virtually wrote off last season, to ensure things were right for 2009.
Bring back promotion and relegation – I’m a fan, are you?