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DISCORD 2011: Edition 2

NO MATTER what way you look at it, today's news of a breakaway league in the United States can be aptly summed up by one word: sad.
DISCORD 2011: Edition 2
by NRL

NO MATTER what way you look at it, today's news of a breakaway league in the United States can be aptly summed up by one word: sad.

I'd like a dollar for how many times the second paragraph of Discord has started with "in case you missed it..."

Anyway, in case you missed it, seven existing clubs and two new teams have today announced the formation of the USA Rugby League, which will kick off this very year.

Clearly knowing what was around the corner, the establishment AMNRL recently trumpetted new organisations in places like Dallas and California. Sound familiar? Except back in 1995, it was the breakaway Super League which used geographical spread to fight defections.

Now I have spent a bit of time in the US around rugby league over the past few years but I am not about to set myself up as some sort of expert. If I really had my finger on the pulse, I would have at least heard a whisper of this in the entire week I spent at the Atlantic Cup, wouldn't I, despite David Niu sitting alongside Daryl "Spinner" Howland at a media conference?

But I can tell you a few things.

Many of the breakaway clubs believe the AMNRL has sold out to the corporation that runs website wearerugby.com. Some believe AMNRL boss David Niu actually sold the league to that company and is now paid a wage.

I have not been able to confirm this so I am certainly not presenting it as fact.

They also complain that there was no tender process for the game against Ireland in March. They say that while the Jacksonville Axemen set up and promoted the Atlantic Cup, wearerugby pocketed all the proceeds of merchandise sold (which, to be fair, would not have been much).

It's a classic rugby league story. We were born out of rebellion and we are doomed to repeat it. Similar upheavals have recently occurred in Italy and Russia.

But the press release heralding the new league, which will include Boston 13s, the DC Slayers, the Fairfax Eagles, the Jacksonville Axemen, the New Haven Warriors, the Philadelphia Fight, the Pittsburgh Vipers, the New Jersey Knights and Kodiak Rugby, focuses on democracy and giving each club an equal say.

This is the OPPOSITE of what is happening elsewhere in the world, in more professional RL places where it is recognised that clubs are selfish and giving them too much power is like putting the proverbial lunatics in charge of the asylum.

Independent Commission, anyone?

How is letting the clubs run the game progress?

Here's just a couple of the implications: players at those nine clubs cannot represent the United States. Sponsors of the AMNRL - including wearerugby itself - could reasonably claim breach of contract because seven clubs have disappeared and they no longer have the sport they signed up for.

The International Federation will no doubt refuse to deal with the new body, as it recently did with the breakaway league in Italy. This is ridiculous and tragic for the game.

Remember when we had Super League Japan and the East Japan Rugby League - but no actual GAMES being played in that country??

Spinner Howland wants it known that he did not lead this rebellion. The Axemen are not the Brisbane Broncos of this breakaway. But they are the AMNRL's most successful club and will be the most missed.

I know you felt strongly about your actions guys but for the sake of the sport, please sit down with David and work something out. David, you may feel you have put in enough work and years to not have to deal with this.

But please deal with it anyway. Most of us are sick of our sport being a laughing stock and can well imagine what the US Rugby Union head honchos are saying to each other right now.

This can be a positive development - but only if we never see rival competitions actually kick off.

----------

NOW just a bit of followup from last week.

To Rabby, the only reason I didn't go into the reasons for my thinking regarding the salary cap is the most Discord readers have seen this 1000 times and I didn't want to bore them.

For you: we have a competition that at one end of the spectrum has a team with a 52,000 seat stadium and has three million people in its market and at the other end has a suburban sides that play at old parks and rely on poker machine money to survive.

If you think those two teams could compete meaningfully in any way without a false economy ... well, it's you who should explain why.

We have a tiny market in this country and it is further split in two by Aussie Rules (not to mention soccer and rugby union). In a free market system there would not just be the same teams in the grand final every year but only two or three teams in the comp!

You say let them wither, merge or drop to a lower division. That's what Super League proposed - and I agreed at the time - but the public hated it. They wanted their traditional colours and symbols or they weren't interested in the sport at all.

Clearly, the governing body has to prop up some teams in order for the people in the street to give a shit.

Oh, and it's the NRL's fault that the Storm cheated? What do we tell kids if the salary cap is ripped up? That if you break the rules and get caught, its OK because the rules are wrong, not you?

As for Major League Baseball, they have a history of turning a blind eye to performance enhancing drugs too. I'm sure someone out there will favour the NRL doing that too...

I'll tell you one thing, and my colleague Nick Tedieshi suggested it the other night in the pub: if you're going to have a salary cap you should have transparency. There is something we can borrow from MLB.

All players salaries should be published. That will rebuild the faith of fans - as un-Australian as many will think the concept is. See you next week.


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