It is so easy to make the lazy choice these days. Last Saturday, I didn’t really fancy the long trip to Ionians, but I could have easily come to Park Lane, where I might have watched our 2s playing Kirkby Lonsdale 2s, or our 3s playing Birkenhead Park 2s. It was just as well I didn’t bother, because neither game was played, due to the opposition crying off. A dry (if windy) Saturday in October, and only one game played by the club, this has to be a worry for the future of the game.
Instead, I was able to watch a brilliant televised Premiership game, a shock result, when London Irish beat Exeter at Sandy Park. I also watched England beat W Indies in the Twenty20 World Cup, though I like T20 cricket about as much as I do Sevens rugby. Both good fun in small doses, but not all the time, please. All icing and no cake!
What a contrast to the old days, when the only televised rugby was the Varsity Match and some of the Five Nations, with the abysmal Peter West commentating. West was a hooray henry public school twit, whose commentary style consisted largely of banal exclamations: “Oh my hat, what a fine try!” or “What a wonderful occasion this Varsity match is!” It was infinitely better when the passionate Welsh stand-off/poet Cliff Morgan was on the mic, who was to rugby what John Arlott was to cricket. “My word, what a great commentator Morgan is!” Indeed he was.
On Sunday, I finally did get to the club in time to see most of the Junior Colts’ game against Leigh, in the second round of the Lancashire Cup. The game was a bit one-sided, unfortunately in Leigh’s favour, but I did get some decent photos, far better than the ones of the Fylde match the previous week. Amazing what a little preparation can achieve!
I have been trying to get my head round what is going to happen next season, and what the promotion / relegation implications are right now.
Premiership: Currently 13 clubs, no relegation; next season 14.
Championship: Currently 11 clubs, of which one will be promoted, no relegation; next season…who knows? Will it be 12, or will it be 14? I can’t find any RFU statement anywhere, just some moaning on the Rolling Maul forum about the absence of such a statement. George Orwell and the Ministry of Truth get an honourable mention, suggesting the RFU does not enjoy universal approval, though I think they make a strong case for the reforms.
National One: Currently 15 clubs + not-playing Old Elthamians, promotion depends on Championship numbers referred to above. Next season definitely 14 clubs at level 3.
Therefore, top three levels: this season 39 clubs (or 40 if you include Elthamians); next season possibly 42 clubs, assuming 14 in the Championship. Alternatively, it could be 40, if the Championship remains at 12. So, there might be extra promotion. Or perhaps not. I think we need to know now. If anyone has the answer, perhaps they would post it on the Sedgley Tigers website and let the rest of us peasants know.
At our own level 4, we know the 2 leagues of 16 are to be replaced by 3 leagues of 14, which is a gain of ten clubs in total, over the whole country. The price we pay for shorter away trips could be an increase in the number of one-sided matches, which at present is very few. If we remain at this level, will it feel like a relegation, almost? Our trips to the Midlands will probably be a thing of the past. Otley are currently top club in the North Premier, with a 100% record still, followed by Preston Grasshoppers, Billingham, Blackburn, Alnwick, York and others. It’s quite congested at the top.
Promotion, on the other hand, would bring trips to Cornwall and Kent. Even to Guernsey, who lead National Two South. And I think Hull is a long way!
Photos from 1st XV v Fylde, here.
Photos from Junior Colts v Leigh, here.