League sponsorship deal a lorry-load of nothing

Missed opportunity: Betfair cash could go towards development programmes like the one which produced Eagles' Corey Hanson
Missed opportunity: Betfair cash could go towards development programmes like the one which produced Eagles' Corey Hanson
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I HAVE to warn you that Sheffield Eagles are staging a race night for their fans soon. This will cause the cups to rattle as the suits at the Rugby Football League sit down to afternoon tea.

There is a serious risk that some Eagles supporters as well as dining on pie and peas will be tempted to place a bet. After recent events we can expect the elders of Red Hall to start with concern. They don’t seem to approve of a little flutter and certainly pulled their hand away faster than Luis Suarez when the bookies offer cash.

Sponsorship of the Super League was up for grabs last month and Betfair were ready to pay around £750,000 a year for the naming rights. That got the RFL in a flutter. Into bed with a bookie – shock, horror. In the past booze and fags have been okay sponsors. The suits persuaded the clubs to opt for an offer from trucking company Eddie Stobart – cash on offer, nil.

Instead 300 Stobart trucks will carry Super League logos with individual clubs featured on 14 lorries each. It’s claimed this will raise the game’s profile and presumably keep league fans (shrinking, unworldly types who are not safe to be let out in the cold without their flat caps, I presume?) from the temptation of having a bet.

This is the same RFL that last month bought Bradford Bulls’ Odsal Stadium. It joined Keighley in their property portfolio – Cougar Park that is, not the whole town.

Stobart’s proud boast is that you only have to stand on a motorway bridge for an average of four minutes before one of their trucks goes by. Last weekend I made a 300-mile round trip to Workington – eight hours on the road and I didn’t clock a single Stobart truck.

In terms of some sport sponsorship Betfair’s offer wasn’t massive (Engage Mutual Assurance paid £1.2 million in 2011). But that cash could have gone a long way in some areas.

Eagles’ race night is being held to raise cash to support development programmes. Clubs like Eagles have a commitment to developing their own local players - Norfolk Park teenager Corey Hanson made the breakthrough from the Academy last season.

This season has seen most pro clubs outside the Super League drop their reserve teams – reason, the cost. Only six Championship clubs plan to run reserve teams and the RFL with the season underway still haven’t sorted out a league for them to compete in. The RFL bosses need to get off that motorway bridge and do something to keep development rugby outside the Super League alive.

If you are tempted by the Eagles race night it’s at Don Valley Stadium on Wednesday, March 14. Details are on the club website – but think carefully, you might see people betting.