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This Sporting Life 28 PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Walsh   
Thursday, 16 February 2017

Rogerdraper.jpgThe RFL, and it’s showpiece competition Super League, are constantly under attack from disillusioned fans.

Pick-up either of the sport’s two weekly trade papers – League Weekly and League Express and the letters page is always full of supporters having a rant.

Perhaps thing are about to change, though, as the RFL’s new executive director Roger Draper gets himself acclimatised with his surroundings and the problems he inherited when taking over in December.

Draper arrived with an impressive sports CV – chief executive of Sport England; chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association and more recently chief executive of Warrington Wolves.

His rugby league involvement goes back to the 1990’s when he was a former England students rugby league international who also worked as a development manager for the sport in London.

He now heads all activity undertaken by the governing body's commercial, marketing, communications, ticketing and events teams and also becomes the public face of Super League.

The role makes him the second most powerful man in English rugby league behind RFL chief executive Nigel Wood.

He went into the job with his eyes open, quoting Warrington coach Tony Smith (a former Workington Town player incidentally).

Smith had told him: “If we don’t continue to change then we won’t be Super League we will be Mediocre League.”

His main aims are to grow attendances and increase tv viewing figures.

But also on the agenda, and a lot of supporters will agree with this, are improving the Rugby League Challenge competition and taking a look at the structure of the Super 8’s.

Low crowds at the Super 8’s have been well monitored by Draper from his time at Warrington.

In the regulation season Widnes took nearly 3,000 fans to the Halliwell Jones stadium but for the Super 8’s in August that travelling figure had dropped to only 700.

Draper wasn’t involved in one decision last week, but the clubs voted to raise the proportion of matchday income given to away clubs from the tickets actually sold by those travelling clubs.

That rises from 10% to 25% meaning for a travelling support of 2,000 at £20 a ticket the home club will give their opponents £10,000 rather than £4,000.

Wakefield, Wigan, Huddersfield and Leigh all objected and one of them said that it will cost them £30,000 during the season.

That’s something Draper will be keeping a close eye on over the coming months.

The RFL looks to be in a safer pair of hands since his arrival, but the message he will have to take on board from a lot of fans is simple.

Rugby League isn’t all about Super League – remember the Championship and League One are every bit as important to the overall framework of the sport.


Sean Dysche.jpgEarly days, I know, but making a strong bid to be considered as manager of the year is Burnley’s Sean Dyche.

It isn’t all about the Contes, Mourinhos, Guardiolas and Klopps of this world.

One of only five British-owned clubs in the Premier League, the Clarets are close to a top-half position in the top flight.

There are no big foreign imports either. Against Chelsea on Sunday Dyche started with eight Englishmen, two Irish and a Scot.

A thoroughly deserved 1-1 draw took them to 30 points for the season, remarkably with the help of 29 of them at Turf Moor.

It’s how you perform with the hand you are dealt and Dyche has proved himself  very astute with the resources at his disposal.

It helps, though, when there is clearly such a sound working relationship between manager and chairman.

Mike Garlick, Burnley-born is the owner and chairman, who runs a recruitment consultancy with thousands of employees across the globe.

Garlick is clearly a very shrewd chairman as you can probably work-out from his five tips to being a successful Premier League chief.

Don’t lose your shirt in transfer window madness. Stick to your guns and buy late.

Be honest with the fans. Fail to deliver an extravagant promise and they will never take you seriously.

Be careful with social media. Communicating via recognised local and national media is nearly always better. (Hear, Hear).

Make decisions based on what is best for the club not your own short term popularity. A chairman wants to be respected but doesn’t need to be loved.

Choose the best manager for the club, not the recognised brand name. Our fans were underwhelmed when Sean Dyche was appointed – they are not now.

Burnley are quickly becoming everybody’s second favourite team in the Premier League, with good sound reasons.

With Garlick and Dyche in charge they should continue to prosper.

Sam Barkas.jpgRemember last week’s column when I mentioned Manchester City’s relegation of 1938.

They had won the First Division title a year earlier and now Leicester City could possible take that unwanted record from them.

Well, its been brought to my attention that City’s captain in that fateful season was a man who later went on to manage Workington Reds.

An interesting character Sam Barkas hailed from Wardley colliery, Gateshead and had worked down the pit and on farms until joining Bradford City at the age of 19 as a left back.

In 1928-29 he helped them to the Third Division North title and went on to play a total of 202 games before he was sold to Manchester City for £5,000 in 1933.

At Manchester City he picked up a Championship medal and a Division Two title, playing until 1947 and appearing 176 times with one goal.

He also won five caps for England and captained his country three times before eventually retiring.

There are strange parallels with Leicester if you consider Barkas’ comments after winning the title: “There was a great unity in the side. I sometimes thought the team captained itself and all I had to do was spin the coin before a game.”

City, desite being the League’s top scorers, were relegated the following season, but this time they leaked almost as many and went down on goal difference.

Again Leicester take note of Barkas – “Somebody builds a fine structure without certainty of performance and others say – let’s have a shot at taking them down’. Every week somebody has a shot at taking the champions down.”

In fact after the war, before he left Maine Road, Barkas helped City back to the top flight but his career was coming to an end.

He joined the Reds in May 1947 as player manager and was there for two seasons, but injuries curtailed his playing role to just five games and he resigned at the end of his second season in the North Eastern League.

He later managed Wigan in their non-League days before returning to Man City as a scout. He died in 1989 aged 80.


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