Opinion: Super League snobbery betrays sport’s roots

Leigh's season faded out after an outstanding start. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
Leigh's season faded out after an outstanding start. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography

I don’t think any single piece I have written has generated quite so much debate as the one I penned last week about Leigh Centurions’ not being given a fair chance to get into Super League.

It certainly enjoyed a lot of circulation on social media: most of it, unsurprisingly, from Centurion fans who must be feeling pretty hacked off at the moment after a record-breaking season petered out so depressingly.

But I have had some grief too: for the most part - also unsurprisingly - supporters of teams already safely established in the Super League.

The most oft-repeated dismissal has been to the effect: “they would never have been good enough to stay up anyway. They’d much rather play in a league when they can win most of their games.”

A statement of such remarkable snobbery and elitism that I wondered for a moment whether I had mistaken working class rugby league for polo.

If Wakefield beat Bradford in the last of the cross-league play-offs this Saturday then the status quo will have been maintained and once again the Super League’s make-up will be identical next season to the one just ending.

I know in a lot of sports you get that “they’re too big a club not to be in the top flight” mantra chanted about those sides who occasionally slip out of the first division.

Just as Wigan Athletic attracted comments of the opposing tone (“they’re too small to be up there, etc, etc”) when they were first promoted to the Premier League.

But it is good to have fresh blood and new contests, not least as reward for fans who have loyally followed lower league teams with little to celebrate, even if it means that famous old rivalries among the elite have to be rested for a while.

The Scottish Premier League has managed to muddle through without Rangers for several seasons now.

Having exactly the same teams playing each other each season, with little or no hope of newcomers getting a look-in, makes for sporting stagnation.