This week, London Broncos announced that as of 2022 they’ll be a part time club as they prepare to overhaul their squad after a disappointing campaign worsened by financial issues.
I, for one, saw this as a massive blow to the sport. Many have always written off the Broncos but in the early days of Super League they were a big club. They finished second in 1997, got to Wembley in 1999 and were a mainstay in Super League and often a play-off contender for the next 15 years.
Then in 2014 they were relegated as the league looked to reduce the number of teams in the league down to 12. Perhaps this was where we went wrong because instead of supporting two of the league’s biggest clubs in the shape of Bradford and London – the top two back in 1997 – they were allowed to crumble.
Impressively, London clawed their way back into the top flight and very nearly survived in 2019. Unfortunately for hopes of expansion they fell just short and have struggled since.
All of this makes me wonder whether or not we need to provide more support to expansion clubs after all they’re the future of our great game. The biggest worry for me was the financial issues London cited in their decision to become part time.
How have they been allowed to struggle for money? To me, the less established expansion clubs with smaller fan bases need to be supported financially and need to be given a consistently large piece of the pie. The same should be said of teams like Newcastle Thunder and the other expansion clubs in the lower leagues.
Imagine if Catalans had struggled financially and we’d have let them drown in their problems. They wouldn’t be the league leaders in 2021. The same fate could’ve easily befallen London if they’d been given a safety net. After all, in 2006 Catalans were protected from relegation in a brilliant move to support expansion so why aren’t we doing similar things today?
Why are London being allowed to struggle in the Championship when that does nothing for the game. I’ve spoken a lot about the fact I believe licensing is the way to go and such a system would support clubs like London and enable them to reach their potential.
This is not to say that we should turn our backs on teams from the north but they have established support which won’t go away. That’s not true of London and other expansion clubs. They need a different degree of support and we should give it to them.