Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

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josie andrews
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Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

Post by josie andrews » Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:13 am

Super League’s chief executive has big plans for 2019 and beyond and does not mind if he has to ruffle a few feathers along the way.

“Super League needed to freshen up, and that’s probably putting it modestly.” Barely five minutes have passed since the Dictaphone was switched on, and it is clear Robert Elstone is in no mood to mince his words. For months, the Super League chief executive has promised a revolution for British rugby league’s elite competition amid a backdrop of boardroom politics but you sense the 54-year-old finally feels as though he is making progress as 2019 begins.

Last week Super League unveiled its self-titled “new beginnings” for 2019; a series of law changes aimed at revolutionising the image of the competition. Interchanges have been reduced, while shot clocks designed to speed up games and golden point extra-time are being implemented for 2019 – but Elstone’s plans for change do not end there. “Super League will be different in 2019, that’s for sure,” he explains. “But you’ll see a much better-looking competition in 2020 and the years after that. That’s a guarantee.”

Expanding Super League’s global reach is high on Elstone’s agenda, underlined by the possibility that the traditional Magic Weekend could have an international flavour to it sooner rather than later, with Barcelona a likely venue for the event. In May, Catalans will host the reigning champions, Wigan, at the Camp Nou and while Magic will have a new home at Anfield in 2019, Elstone admits that the success of that game in Catalonia could set the stage for all 12 clubs to play in Barcelona at some point.

“If that worked, then it would increase the chances of Magic going there without question,” Elstone says. “I think Wigan playing Catalans there is the most incredible development we’ve had for years. It’s a huge statement and it creates huge traction beyond our traditional circles. Super League has to get out of its own bubble, and the Nou Camp helps do that. It’s not lost on me that our sport has a rebellious soul, and was founded out of injustice. If there’s one region of the world that captures that, it’s Catalonia.”

As the former Everton CEO begins to share his vision for a sport he began watching on the terraces of Castleford over 40 years ago, it is not difficult to see the strains of the first six months in the job showing. Most of that period was spent entrenched in a public dispute with prominent lower-league clubs about a restructure of the leagues in 2019, which was successfully achieved in September, with confirmation that the Super 8s format would end in 2018.

Despite that victory, Elstone is in no mood to stand still. Next month he will move a new-look team of staff – many of whom have been poached from the RFL – out of the governing body’s headquarters in Salford into the centre of Manchester, emphasising the differing directions of the two parties moving into 2019. Talk of a split between Super League and the RFL is not wide of the mark.

“Getting a group of people focused solely on Super League is well overdue,” Elstone says. “I don’t think the competition got the focus that it should have had. A big part of all this is about giving the competition accountability. We’re accountable for our actions now so there’s a spotlight on us we’re conscious of, but one we’re excited about. We need to break out of our bubble and aim big for this competition.”

Part of Elstone’s vision includes, by his own admission, looking to Australia’s NRL for inspiration. “I’ll no doubt be branded an NRL sycophant,” he smiles when explaining why Super League has emulated the NRL in adopting golden point extra-time. “The drama of a period of time to decide a winner excites me,” he says. “There were a number of variations on the table, including golden try rather than golden point, but aligning ourselves with the NRL was the major factor.”

We don’t have enough recognisable stars at present, and that’s high on our agenda
Other significant changes will follow in 2020, including the introduction of two referees per game rather than one: a law amendment again inspired by the NRL. “We came close to doing it in 2019, and had club approvals and budgets signed off, but it was just too late,” Elstone says. “I’m pretty confident you’ll see it in 2020 though. With the changes to speed the game up, it will put undoubted pressure on officials in 2019. We have to listen to referees and give them more help in-game, and a second referee does that.”

The Man of Steel award will change from an end-of-season dinner to a week-by-week voting process that is made public throughout, while the World Club Challenge will also receive a “long-term focus” as part of Elstone’s plans for overhaul. Yet despite all that, Elstone concedes the challenge of giving Super League increased profile in a world where everyone is fighting for attention will be a difficult ask.

“We don’t have enough recognisable stars at present, and that’s high on our agenda,” Elstone says. “Getting cut-through in the modern world is harder than ever, but we think we can get our players out there with third-party endorsements and commercial deals now that Super League has proper focus. We have to stand together and acknowledge the future of the competition is in our own hands. The game was at a crossroads in this country, and it was time for Super League to take action. Thankfully, there are grounds for real optimism now we’ve done that.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/ ... n-nou-camp
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage.

Nezza Faz
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Re: Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

Post by Nezza Faz » Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:30 pm

All sounds promising - not had so many visions all at one time, since ML.
The match in Barcelona seems a "game changer" in his mind, going forward ?

fozzieskem
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Re: Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

Post by fozzieskem » Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:12 pm

It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on,all big talk at the moment which is more it has to be said than what has been in the last few years but I fear his task may be too big to overcome in terms of really raising the games profile.

Union certainly gets ever more watchable,at least in the international game and it’s the international game is where all the big talk will stop,without it the game will forever be a niche sport yet now the split has happened (for now at least) there’s little chance of the peace pipe being smoked as he’s working for 12 paymasters and no one else.

The nonsense of two refs is just that nonsense the game doesn’t have officials of the standard to commit to two refs per game go with what the game has and they’ll be burnt out in months.

The golden point why bother?

The other stuff from the NRL is ok but he seems in thral to it he needs to cherry pick the best bits.

Barcelona I’m sure will be a success even if only 25 k turn up it’ll still be a success but he now has to jump on the bandwagon and talk of moving the magic weekend there,who’s to say that it could be replicated over there?i doubt it the novelty value of Catalan winning the cup will have worn off and I doh t that many would go over.

So for now at least he’s getting in the papers wether anyone outside the heartlands is reading is another matter,time as ever will tell

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jaws1
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Re: Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

Post by jaws1 » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:53 pm

He wants to have a word with SKY the advert showing all the sports being shown in 2019 from football down to darts and netball but no mention of SL ,when you think we are televised for 8 months a year its disgusting.

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Re: Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

Post by fozzieskem » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:27 pm

jaws1 wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:53 pm
He wants to have a word with SKY the advert showing all the sports being shown in 2019 from football down to darts and netball but no mention of SL ,when you think we are televised for 8 months a year its disgusting.
Been like that for years though since the split in channels more so I think,I don’t think Sky are that bothered about RL to be honest

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Re: Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

Post by Mike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:06 am

fozzieskem wrote:It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on,all big talk at the moment which is more it has to be said than what has been in the last few years but I fear his task may be too big to overcome in terms of really raising the games profile.

Union certainly gets ever more watchable,at least in the international game and it’s the international game is where all the big talk will stop,without it the game will forever be a niche sport yet now the split has happened (for now at least) there’s little chance of the peace pipe being smoked as he’s working for 12 paymasters and no one else.

The nonsense of two refs is just that nonsense the game doesn’t have officials of the standard to commit to two refs per game go with what the game has and they’ll be burnt out in months.

The golden point why bother?

The other stuff from the NRL is ok but he seems in thral to it he needs to cherry pick the best bits.

Barcelona I’m sure will be a success even if only 25 k turn up it’ll still be a success but he now has to jump on the bandwagon and talk of moving the magic weekend there,who’s to say that it could be replicated over there?i doubt it the novelty value of Catalan winning the cup will have worn off and I doh t that many would go over.

So for now at least he’s getting in the papers wether anyone outside the heartlands is reading is another matter,time as ever will tell
Personally I think two refs will make a big difference. If there's one watching the play the ball all the time and one watching offsides it will force he players to clean up their act. You'll hopefully see less dropped ball in the tackle and fewer penalties for ball steals. That maybe won't happen for a couple of months, but IMO the NRL has got a much more disciplined play the ball because of the two ref system.

Also, if the refs are bad, then making their jobs easier by letting them focus on one area at a time sound like a way of improving outcomes to me. It's a very hard job being a ref and anything that makes it easier will lead to fewer incorrect decisions.

I'd prefer this change to be brought in next season.

I do agree about the golden point being stupid though. What's wrong with a draw? And anyway in a close game we all just sat through 10minutes of drop goal attempts just to get to the draw. Why do we want another 5 goes per side before we decide to give up?

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DaveO
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Re: Super League’s Robert Elstone: ‘Wigan playing at the Nou Camp is a huge statement’

Post by DaveO » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:26 pm

Think the Golden Point is pointless (see what I did there :D ) What was it? Four draws last season? Gives an advantage to whoever wins the toss as they get first chance to score as they will elect to receive the kick off - you can't score without the ball. Should have left that one in Oz.

The most encouraging thing I read in that piece is not about the rules but the bit about having no recognisable star players. We need that to change but at the moment there is little incentive for players to make themselves available for this sort of thing and the clubs can't allow it because any money that make from being "the face of Gillette" or whatever counts on the salary cap.

I am hoping this rule may therefore change. Allowing players to earn more in indirect income like this is one way to allow clubs to effectively have players on higher wages.

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