WHAT to make of London Skolars?
I’ve visited the north London club three times in the last eight seasons, and they have never been less than friendly and accommodating.
More so, it has to be said, than plenty of other Championship clubs.
For a start, I can’t think of anywhere else where you get complimentary Snickers and a cup of tea at half time. That’s Super League box-ticking material for my money.
And judging by last Sunday’s efforts, when they gave Halifax a real scare, they have also made significant improvements on the field, partly due to a handful of London Broncos on dual-registration.
But with a crowd that still looked to be well under four figures, despite a significant number of visitors, I have to question the logic of it all.
On the one hand, while they may pay their players, I’d question whether they are any more professional or well-supported than, for example, Siddal, Leigh East or any of the other established National Conference clubs.
In fact, as far as support goes, they are almost certainly significantly behind.
And while they, and the Broncos, work hard to promote the game at grassroots level - throwing up talents like Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Will Sharp and Tony Clubb - in the context of a city of millions, their strike rate is pretty damn poor compared to some of the game’s more famous nurseries like Oldham, Featherstone and Halifax.
That’s not a criticism of Skolars or the people who run it, who are admirably committed and enthusiastic in the face of what must seem, at times, to be overwhelming odds.
As I mentioned last week, the Skolars model is one that will be rolled out across Championship One next season, with Hemel and Northampton already booked in and the expectation of Bristol and probably Gillingham or Coventry to follow.
Don’t misunderstand, I have no problem with expansion. But when Rugby Football League officials talk about having ‘harvested the game in the heartlands’, which sounds remarkably like they are preparing to wash their hands of the Championship clubs, the alarm bells start to ring.
It would be a tragedy if the artificial elevation to the professional ranks of outpost teams, in the pursuit of Sport England funding, were to have a negative effect on the game in areas like Oldham and Cumbria where the potential remains so much greater.
ABOUT 10 hours after this column hits the streets, we will get our first taste of televised Co-operative Championship rugby league, Premier Sports style.
Having got the gig for free, it will be fascinating to see whether a channel that is mainly a distributor of TV coverage rather than a programme maker, can do the game justice.
Although with the excellent Dave Woods and Brian Noble in the commentary box, they are light years ahead of Sky in that regard.