Quality over quantity
Phil Clarke looks at what Super League can do to attract more fans to the first round of the play-offs.
Last Updated: 19/09/12 1:53pm
After waiting for seven months the play-offs are finally here and I'd give week one about a 50 per cent score.
We had two good games and two one-sided events which has led to several questions from readers like the one from Peter Handley, who asks: 'Is it right to have a top eight play-off in a 14-team competition?'
Well, 50 per cent is a relevant figure as you only need to win half of your games to make the play-offs.
The Super League clubs have decided that eight teams should qualify and the fact that Leeds won the competition last year after finishing fifth seemed to justify to some that the play-offs format worked.
It is interesting that when we first introduced a play-off format to find the Champions we actually used the top five teams to find the winner. This was later expanded to six and then to eight.
I have written on this website before that in my opinion that sets the pass mark of entry too low. We need to reward success and excellence and seem to have moved away from this in an attempt to attract more supporters from more clubs. It does not seem to be working.
Attracting the crowds
A friend of mine, currently working in the States, was back in the UK last weekend and decided to travel up from London to watch Wigan take on the Dragons last Friday. He had seen the game the St Helens v Wigan the week before and couldn't understand why there'd been three times as many supporters at a league game compared to the play-off contest with Catalans.
I felt slightly embarrassed by the crowd and the game. The match lacked atmosphere and the Dragons seemed to lack effort. How do we solve this?
The suggestion made by Peter is one of several that should be debated. I know that several people feel that we need to reconsider this but the clubs have already decided that the top eight is the way that they want to operate for at least the next few years. If that is the case, and we do seem to chop and change so often in rugby league, then we need to find a way of packing the stadiums.
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Hi Phil, I wondered what your view is on Super League referees having such a different view on games? Leeds and Wakefield players throw punches and the ref laughs and says calm down, no cards. Wigan and Saints players throw punches and the referee at the time sent three players off which completely ruined the game for both sets of fans. Surely referees are given the same training on how to handle fighting in a game without ruining the match?
PHIL REPLIES: Simon, I don't have any referees on my Christmas card list but I do respect the effort that the put in to being the best that they can be. Nobody is perfect and neither are the 10 men who have controlled the 193 Super League games that have taken place this year. There have been times when one referee has interpreted and penalised one decision differently to one of his colleagues, but the number of these gets less and less each year.
If you don't believe me then take a look at some old tries on YouTube. I recently watched a try at Wembley in the 1970's when the try scorer was offside from the kick and nobody even thought of it. Their awareness and preparation is 10 times better now.
Without going into every incident of foul play and fighting this year I think that the refs are now correct in sending players from the field if they deliberately punch or strike an opponent in the head. The game needs to set the right example.
Not only do referees receive the training, but they also get as much, if not more, feedback on their performance than every player in Super League. Their number one goal is to be consistent, even if they don't achieve this. I am not sure which team that you support Simon, but the game when Wigan and St Helens had three players sent off at the Etihad Stadium was over as a contest well before the punch up at the scrum.