RUGBY League, like most sports, is not immune from staging Mickey Mouse competitions. They may be given grand names but they are space and time fillers.
Usually meaningless tournaments are run at the start of the season and are soon forgotten when the real action starts – soccer fans who won the Emirates Cup in 2011?* You can look at such ‘competitions’ as a training run out but anyone with half a brain doesn’t halt the league season in the middle to stage one.
They do in rugby league. Just when the Championship is getting interesting the top four clubs will be off to play in the Anglo-French Challenge.
Why? There’s no answer. The Rugby Football League announced the competition last year but since then has been as talkative as a Trappist monk in a sponsored silence.
Most people had forgotten it was on until the French Federation posted some info on their website.
The one-off games between the top four clubs in the French league, which has just finished their winter season, and last season’s top four in the Championship will be played over the weekend of June 2-3.
The nation with the best results will take the trophy – with highest aggregate scores used as a tiebreaker if the four games finish with two wins to each country.
The Eagles travel to play Carcassone. Beautiful city to visit but when I’m planning a short break I don’t want the RFL deciding my destination.
The competition – which so far hasn’t had sponsors queuing up - should be backed by Ryanair who are the only winners selling a few extra seats.
Before they wake up to le petit déjeuner the Eagles will have played two tough games against Dewsbury and Batley at Bramall Lane. Wins will put the Eagles up with the leaders in Championship at the mid-point in the season.
If those games haven’t gone well the team needs to focus on finding answers – not flying off to France for a meaningless bit of fluff.
Although I’m sure there will be quite a few of the suits from the RFL who will have decided this ‘important’ tournament (in the sunny South West of France) cannot survive without their attendance – expenses paid no doubt!
Clubs and coaches are quick to say that the priority has to be the league. I can’t see many fans proudly declaring ‘forget the Grand Final - we won our game in the France’ come September.
French teams play in the Northern Rail and the Challenge Cups - real competitions.
This is an attempt to puff out the season. The Anglo French short break will involve only four UK clubs - the rest of the Championship’s fans will switch off and go fishing.
*For those who are not sports anoraks and if you really want to know: New York Red Bulls won the Emirates Cup (which was staged at Arsenal’s stadium) in 2011.