A major criticism of the critics is that they never offer any solutions to the problems they comment on. I can be critical, but this is all about ideas that might help things progress a little.
I'm not suggesting I know more than the RFL or the clubs. I'm also not suggesting I have any qualification to comment on the state of things outside being an avid fan who cares about his favourite sport. However, I do think about it a lot, and here are a list of my thoughts about some incidental initiatives that might help the sport out a little:
- All full-time contracted players should be contractually obliged to make themselves available at least one afternoon or evening each week (from Jan to Sep lets say as a minimum standard) to visit local schools, amateur clubs, charities and youth groups. Part-time players at lower league clubs should also be imposed with some sort of obligation in their deals, but not to the same extent. I know clubs do have community foundations that do this type of work, which is great, buteven more involvement from the players in this type of work would be great for the game I think.
- All full-time players must also be made available to meet local media on a regular basis (once a month?) and national media on a less regular basis (mandatory in week before big events, otherwise at least twice a season) - newspaper, radio and TV. Clubs should impose players on the media rather than wait for requests in order to help build anticipation for matches etc. Media exposure and coverage is one area we probably all feel our sport is a little let down in, particularly nationally, but making our star attractions more available should help in this area I'm sure.
- Major club news (transfers, coaching appointments etc) should be released through 'exclusive' reports in a national and a daily local newspaper with exclusive interview access to that person, rather than a generic club press release - similar arrangement should be made with a TV & radio news broadcaster for interview access. Press conferences should follow later in the week for more general access for reporting within the sport specific press in their Monday papers. Similar to the above point really, but I think giving the press more to go at and making more of the news events we do have will help increase interest.
- The RFL and clubs should use their own marketing or media relations staff to write copy for local papers who might not be able to afford the resources to dedicate time to reporting as much Rugby League as would be preferable. Basically the more exposure the better, and if the clubs have to do that themselves then thats what they should do.
- Every club should designate a player or coaching staff member to write a regular diary to their fans and also have players doing regular columns in the local newspaper. Same as the above really - I know Wigan do this through the website, I'm sure all the clubs at least do it through match day programmes, but more can't be bad.
profile overseas players and England international players should be
offered regularly and often to TV companies to appear on sports panel
shows or celebrity
TV specials (one-off things like pointless celebrities more than long
series like I'm a celebrity). Clubs should be accommodating to releasing
players for this too. I think we see more rugby league players on A Question of Sport than we realise, but you don't see them anywhere else really. The sport should be promoting its stars to the masses. The more recognisable faces, the more sponsors will come in.
- The RFL should contact its celebrity supporters and get them involved in promotional material for the game, even just a video clip sound bite or something. The RFL and the broadcasters should be building on things like Sky's advert with Bradley Wiggins. We seem to have plenty of people willing to make appearances at games when it suits them, and others happy to acknowledge they like the game. Lets get more of them doing what Sir Brad did.
Some of this might happen already and it isn't reported well enough for me to be aware of or there are things I haven't done looking for, but the game needs to sell itself to the people again, and that is done by forging a connection with the clubs and the players to the people.
That’s just a few simple things I thought of, mostly put together during a lunch break! I have some other thoughts related to structure and events that I've either already written about (read the other articles in my blog) or I'll be writing about soon, but this was just the little stuff I think could help.