Former rugby league owner calls for concentration in the north of England

Ex-Melbourne Storm owner Mark Evans believes that rugby league needs to concentrate in the north before expansion takes hold.

Evans spoke honestly to The Guardian about the challenges facing both codes – he was also owner of Harlequins rugby union – and why the 13-a-side game needs to focus on where it is strong to start with.

“The region where rugby league has a presence has about 10 million people. It’s twice the size of Scotland. It’s Portugal or Sweden: not to be dismissed,” Evans said.

“But why spend any time worrying about your national reach when you have so much of the north to conquer? Fish where the fishes are.

“I’ve never quite understood why English rugby league didn’t look to fill in the gaps in areas where it was known. Rugby league is equal to football in Leeds and Hull, where it’s on the back page of the paper.

Evans added: “That’s as good as you’re going to get in a city. But look at all those places between Manchester and Leeds – Rochdale, Oldham, Calderdale, Huddersfield – they all have about a quarter of a million people.

“That’s a million people with a cultural understanding of the sport and yet it’s been allowed to wither.”

Expansion rose its head once more when Catalans Dragons confirmed their place in the Super League Grand Final on Thursday night.

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