Rugby League may not be a sport that is as well known as its Union counterpart, but those that follow the sport will know there is nothing quite like it. However, it is fast becoming a sport that even the most die hard of supporters are close to turning their backs on.
That is why - with Hull Kingston Rovers being the case in point - it is so disappointing to see yet more fixtures fall foul of the RFL’s COVID protocols this week.
Robins have seen the last seven fixtures postponed
The East Hull club are not the only ones to be affected by the postponement of fixtures, but they are the club that have felt it the most. Their last scheduled game to go ahead was back in mid-June when they beat Wigan Warriors 8-18 at the DW Stadium - the same night as the England football team drew to Scotland in Euro 2020.
The last seven fixtures for the Robins have been postponed, and only had a game last week with Rovers so desperate to play they rescheduled their away trip to the South of France to play league leaders Catalans Dragons.
They will now not play until Monday - yet again against the Dragons - as their game against Salford Red Devils is the latest to be postponed.
Hull Kingston Rovers Chief Executive Paul Lakin put a statement out on the club’s social media channels expressing his frustrations in the wake of the Salford cancellation.
“There is no doubt that the track and trace protocols are badly hurting the sport”
“We are naturally very frustrated; this is our 7th consecutive postponed game and there is no doubt that the track and trace protocols are badly hurting the sport.
As we showed by flying out to France at short notice over the weekend, we are desperate to play but unfortunately, we aren’t able to rearrange a game for 48 hours’ time. Whilst neither Huddersfield or Leigh has a game this round, it wasn’t possible to bring forward our away fixture to play either of them for stadium operational reasons.
“We are excited and determined to give everything we’ve got”
“We now look forward to playing Catalans at home on Monday for our first game in front of our fans since the lockdown restrictions were fully lifted. With nine scheduled fixtures remaining, and we believe also an opportunity to play two rearranged games before the regular season concludes. We are excited and determined to give everything we’ve got, to what feels to us, to be the start of the second half of the season.”
The Rovers faithful also took to Twitter to vent their frustration, with one season ticket holder sharing her email that was sent to the RFL.
“There should either be some enforcement for teams to fulfil gaps in the fixtures if they are able to do so”
Erin Smithson’s message was strongly worded, but the paragraph that hit home most with Rugby League fans was the following:
“I am not alone in thinking that as the governing body for Rugby League and for the good of the sport, there should either be some enforcement for teams to fulfil gaps in the fixtures if they are able to do so, or some form of punishment if they are not…
“Rugby League is becoming a laughing stock in the world of sport and it breaks my heart to see this happen”
If the game continues to be run by the teams who are simply accepting their fate of ‘not being relegated but not getting into the playoffs’ this season, I am in no doubt that you will continue to see a downward spiral in the number of fans attending games and watching the sport on television.
“Rugby League is becoming a laughing stock in the world of sport and it breaks my heart to see this happen.”
Strong words indeed that deserve a response from the governing body. This season of Super League has been the most disrupted since its inception in the mid-1990’s, and despite claiming to want to grow the sport across the globe the signs don’t look good for the current campaign to even reach it’s conclusion.
The sport simply cannot continue like this. If it does, there will not be the interest or the inclination for many to watch the 2022 season of Super League - if it survives that long.