Postcards from London
There’s a different feel about London Broncos in 2013. On arrival at their training ground in Roehampton, South West London, it’s the new interior decoration of their offices that catches the eye, but as time elapses, the more a ‘new year’ vibe is discernible.
After a quick tour of the site, the domain of chief executive Gus Mackay calls, where the man himself is armed with a drill, screwdriver and timber - putting up a shelf. Somewhat appropriately given Selco Builders Warehouse is now established as the club’s major sponsor.
In fact, that the Broncos actually have a sponsor in place before the start of the season - somewhat of a rarity in recent years - is a reflection of the club’s off-field progression.
But, ultimately, it’s on the pitch where clubs are judged and, in that respect, there’s still more to do. For several years, on BBC Radio London, I’ve been bookending conversations of conjecture and hypotheses about the future of the sport in the capital and its surroundings with “...and just imagine what it could be like if they had a winning side”.
Participation in rugby league in the south is on the up. Fact. But by how much and how many more it would be with a successful Super League team in the area is the million-pound question recently asked by Sport England.
Broncos attendances are poor but what if they won more games? The club insists that the fuel is stockpiled, it just needs lighting. And there is a real sense that this could be the year. Yet with funding cuts looming, many hope it’s not a year too late.
Riding a different horse IAN RAMSDALE chats to Broncos CEO Gus Mackay about the future location of Super League in London
“If we get a good start and some decent wins behind us then a few other things will take care of themselves,” says Mackay. “It’ll certainly drive what happens off the field with people coming through the gates.”
There was so much promise last season, with the side spending up to the salary cap, signing NRL proven winners and a dual code international, but their campaign fell six games and a Tony Rea short of being the worst in a long time. “We’ve still got those players under contract, so expectations are high again and we need to
Important year: Gus Mackay deliver,” Mackay continues. “We are lucky we have David Hughes [the chairman] to support us, but he’s looking for some return on his investment. Satisfaction is what he wants. The team doing well, playing well, being high up the league table - a good run in the Challenge Cup is everyone’s dream. If we got to Wembley again, he’d be a very proud man. He’s very passionate about what he does and just wants to see results.”
Where Hughes might find them in the future is set to change in 2014; the club has secured only one more year at the Stoop.
“Delivering a home for next year is a priority,” says Mackay. “For us to survive and give some longevity to the game in London, we can’t continue to rely on our current venue. We haven’t got funding for our own ground, so the next step is to make a decision about what will be the best for the business long-
Forty-20understands that costs at the Stoop are just not compatible with
London Broncos’ financial plans and with cheaper options available, coupled with an opportunity to move away from an area synonymous with the other code, a change is being sought.
“Because we’re smack in the middle of a rugby union heartland, we’ve tried a number
Great expectations for Skolars What the Dickens! London Skolars favourites to win a reconstituted Championship One? Quite so, says ANDREW BELT
There is an odd feeling around London Skolars as they prepare for their high profile Capital Challenge against Super League neighbours London Broncos.
The annual contest takes place at one of rugby league’s oddest venues, the Honorary Artillery Club in the heart of the City of London, a sliver of green among high rises that would, arguably, be the most valuable land in the capital in the unlikely event of it ever being placed on the market.
The 2013 event, the ninth such, staged on Friday 11 January, will boast Jason Robinson as guest speaker and the World Cup trophy is set to make an appearance, confirming it as the biggest and best yet.
According to Howard Kramer, Skolars’ general manager, the record for the number of attendees at the pre-game lunch is broken already with over 200 signed up. One major reason for that is the new feelgood factor currently permeating the underdogs. For the first time ever, London RL’s junior partner will go into a league campaign with seriously great expectations.
Feelgood factor: London Skolars coach Joe Mbu, left, has high hopes of a stronger year rlphotos.com
Skolars came into being off the back of the Student RL Old Boys, formed in 1995. And since their move into the semi-pro ranks eight years later, the club has toiled away in Tottenham trying to overcome prejudices among an unfamiliar audience with an intensely loyal but small following.
Now, however, they are an unknown
34 Forty-20 January 2013