A year on from the first announcement of Super League licences, and the RFL this week sent a timely reminder to those clubs at risk of missing out when the new licence process comes around in 2012.
That is of course those clubs that were allowed in on the back of a promise, a promise which none of the famous five seem to be any nearer to completing.
In the 12 months gone by, Salford have continued to release quotes of supposed information that realistically hasn’t got them anywhere near to starting their new ground, let alone finishing it, while Celtic have even lost ownership of their ground in that time. They’re now talking about moving to Newport while they look to get a ground built in Bridgend.
St Helens appear to be the most advanced, closely followed by Castleford, while Wakefield haven’t really progressed from last year when the RFL told them a lack of a Plan B could cost them dearly in the future.
Unless they’re building it out of LEGO, a build time anywhere between 6 and 12 months is going to be required for any club to get a new stadium – and that’s without any delays. Warrington and Leigh would be two clubs that the famous five could ask for advice – both play in fantastic new grounds that have added greatly to their respective communities.
With Widnes heading the queue of teams waiting in the wings for a Super League place, the five will face a race against time to ensure standards are met.
RFL director of development Gary Tasker said: “Some clubs are at a more advanced stage of the planning process than others so we felt that, a year on from awarding the licences, it was appropriate to remind all the clubs concerned of their commitment to upgrade their current facility or move to a new stadium and the potential implications any failure to do so may have on their next licence application.”
And with fans growing increasingly impatient over promises and the fear that their club may not be invited to the Super League party beyond 2012, the clubs issued responses.
Castleford CEO Richard Wright said: “Last week we made a very significant announcement with regard to the support from the local council and the project is now gathering some real momentum. After conformation of that support we have had further meetings with the developers. On Friday there will be a key meeting of all interested parties, and that will be attended by our local Member of Parliament Yvette Cooper.
“We also expect to be able to make further key announcements on the project in the very near future and we remain committed and confident that we will meet our objectives and in turn those of the RFL.”
A statement from Wakefield read: “The club was fully aware that after the last round of licence applications in 2008 that moving to a new stadium was to be an integral part of the next round of applications in 2010.
“The club was delighted to announce in February plans for a 12,000 capacity Community Stadium off junction 30 of the M62 at Stanley in conjunction with Yorkcourt Properties and Wakefield City District Council.
Since that announcement progress on the project has continued to develop, and just last week we welcomed the cabinet decision to put land into a Wakefield District Community Trust as a major step forward.”
Castleford and Wakefield’s situation is an interesting one. Both clubs are looking for land and funding at the same time in a relatively close region in Yorkshire. As time goes on, it looks unlikely that both will be at the top table come 2012.
But just how viable is a groundshare? Could both clubs and fans agree to playing at the same stadium? Or would it just be the first step towards a merger, which would of course help the RFL in expanding the competition, just as was proposed back in 1995.
Salford’s David Tarry said: “Salford City Reds is well aware of commitments made in the Super League application along with all other Super League clubs. While to date none of the five clubs have managed to begin the construction phase, we are confident that Salford City Reds’ stadium bid is progressing and we will be in a position to retain our licence in 2012. All five clubs are working hard to fulfil the criteria.”
However, Salford appear to be the experts in releasing promising statements with no substance. They have been waiting for a stadium to spring out of the ground for almost a decade. It was promised back in 2003, and nothing. It has been promised for 2009, 2010 and now seemingly 2011. Surely time is running out for Manchester’s only club.
But all the talk is wearing thin. Maybe this time the RFL won’t accept false promises as they have done in the past.
So for the sake of the fans, it’s time to stop talking and get cracking. Otherwise some will be seeing the end of their Super League dream this time in two years.