Give Championship some respect

It’s a shame the Championship season is near an end.
It’s been extremely competitive this season, more so than ever before, with most teams in the league, with the sad exception of Doncaster, being able to beat any opponent.

While all the attention and seemingly the majority of the resources are pumped in to Super League these days, it’s a shame that the Championship does not get the respect it deserves.

Twenty games is not enough. Ten home games isn’t enough for clubs to sustain themselves. Of course, with the Northern Rail Cup, the number of games goes up to a minimum of 24, but this is paltry when compared to other sports.

The fixture list has been disorganised this season too. Teams have been left with multiple weeks off – Blackpool went five weeks without a game in June and July – while Widnes will be doing their best NOT to finish in the top two, because if they do, it’ll mean four weeks between their final league game and their opening play-off games.

Depending on which way you look at it, there’s either too many or not enough teams in the professional rugby league system. At present, there are 35 teams across the three leagues. With three less, two could be added to Super League, leaving a second tier of 16 teams, which would give plenty of games for the lower leagues club.

It would give a much needed shot in the arm for the Championship 1 clubs, who could generate extra revenue by hosting the bigger clubs outside of Super League – such as Widnes, Halifax and Leigh, who all take plenty more fans than the likes of London and Workington do.

But just how viable is it? How many clubs outside of the top flight can sustain themselves? How many are reliant on owners pumping their own cash in?

A three tier system is probably the best way to go – but more teams are needed to increase interest. The problem is, there are no teams ready to step. Three leagues of 14 would be ideal, but at present, there is a seven team shortfall, and there is nowhere near that many clubs with the ambitions or resources to step up to the professional game.

One of the reasons the league is so tight this year is the small number of teams, but how many quality games have there been? There have been so many high scoring games with some cringe worthy defending.

There’s still some excitement left until the end of the season, but to me, it just feels like it’s ending not too long after it begun.

Championship clubs with Super League aspirations are to meet with the Rugby Football League in Halifax on Wednesday to discuss the next round of licensing. It means the 2011 season will no doubt be overshadowed by the off field controversies that we saw last year – let’s hope that this time the criteria is transparent and that only concrete applications will be approved, and not those based on false promises.

It’s a crying shame that after such a competitive season, that the triumphant Championship club will have next to no reward for their progress. Would Halifax be tailing off quite as spectacularly if a promotion spot was up for grabs? And would Widnes continue to seemingly choose their games if they hadn’t already ticked the Super League box, which virtually renders their on field performance in the next two seasons obsolete?

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