Does rugby league need a new format to attract new fans?

In recent weeks, there’s been plenty of talk about the future of our great game. We’ve seen debates about league structures dominate discussion as people look for ways to revitalise the sport and attract new eyes.

One proposed way of doing so is the creation of a new format within the game. We’ve seen Cricket attract plenty of new fans in the last few decades thanks to the creation of formats such as One Day, Twenty20 and the newest form we’ve seen hit our screens in the shape of the Hundred.

The Hundred has been a massive success. It’s grabbed attention, packed out stadiums and culminated in a great sporting spectacle every week. All of this has led to the creation of plenty of new fans helping funnel money into the sport whilst ensuring the future is bright for the game.

Unsurprisingly, this has led many to believe something similar needs to happen in rugby league. A new 8-player format was suggested during talks of restructuring with the intention being that this 8-a-side game could replace the reserve league, develop young stars and create an exciting, fast-paced and attacking game which would attract the attention of new fans.

Although many rejected the idea, especially the notion that victories would even influence the Super League table itself, many have echoed the need for something different to bring new eyes to game whether that’s the use of this 8-player idea with a few changes or even the re-introduction of rugby league nines.

I certainly like the idea of a smaller form of the game which encourages attacking rugby. If promoted correctly, it certainly could be a huge success for the game both in terms of bringing in new fans and money but also helping promote attacking rugby in general especially if this new format works closely alongside Super League.

But how best to do so? Well for starters, I would still have a reserve league but with the number of youngsters most clubs have these days some of their younger players could also be asked to play in this new format in what should be a curtain raiser for Super League games on sky. Thus, if and when this format attracts new viewers these viewers may stay tuned in for the main game later benefiting Super League.

As will the use of younger players. More rugby is only going to help their development as will the attacking style such a format would promote. It could also be argued that the strain placed upon these players in a fast-paced game would prepare them better for Super League itself again benefiting them in the long run.

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with the idea. In fact, I’d argue it’s a very good suggest, one that not only wants to help the game but intends to provide fans with a new and exciting product. The only problem is the execution. If this is going to work, the format needs the correct platform as well as support and cohesion with Super League itself. If people back it, if clubs and players by in alongside broadcasters, then a new format could have the same impact as the Hundred in Cricket.

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