RFL Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer has defended the governing body’s decision to reject five clubs’ application for Elite Academy status.
Rimmer was a guest in the Sky Sports studio as Salford got ready to take on Warrington and, faced with a bombardment of questions from analysts Terry O’Connor and Brian Carney, was defiant in the ruling.
“We’re disappointed at the reaction to it; we’re a passionate game and sometimes we benefit from it and sometimes it swings against you,” Rimmer said.
“It’s a three-year process, we asked all of our constituents what their strengths and weaknesses of the playing pyramid were, we took that information and took some sense of it and we fed that to Super League CEOs and heads of youths.
“That process was meant to be published in 2019, but we were hit by a pandemic in 2020, and then it was pushed to the end of 2021 – we’ve kept clubs in the know all the way along.”
Rimmer did recognise the right of those clubs rejected to appeal, despite them knowing they had three years to improve their respective systems.
“The RFL is always ready to listen – the challenge was part of the application resolution and there are no issues with the appeal.
“This passion that has come up in the last two weeks from those clubs, the clubs knew that this process has been ongoing for the past three years – the clubs were aware of that.
“It was obvious that the absolute maximum for Elite academies would be 12, so there was always going to be some attrition and clubs should have brought contingencies in to protect them after the decision.”
Rimmer maintains that the decision will help rugby league grow at a community level.
“There were objectives set up from the survey that was created; we have to look after everyone that comes into the sport.
“Rugby union has 9000 young players involved, league has 1400 – we need to grow the numbers and the sport and we need to do something different and that doesn’t just apply to academies.
“There are only roughly 30 pro contracts each year given by clubs and now they have to go into high quality academies and the high quality content is what they should get.
“Kids have a lot more options and far more distractions- if we don’t look after them then they will leave.
“Our work was based on the data that we had and speaking to people – we didn’t make it up.
“We’re very considered about what we do and the game has got to adapt in lots of ways – we have a responsibility from top to bottom.”
The decision to reject clubs’ applications was down to three key areas.
“Clubs can focus on it with the license period. The key elements are the leadership of the club, the ‘pond’ and the performance of the academy – we’re not just acting on the pond, we’re acting on what the group does to grow the pond.
“There’s work to be done between now and 2024; the academies haven’t performed to the right level at this time.
“There is short-term pain in the decision, but long-term gain and this was not done without everybody being involved in it.”