The admittance of the Utah Warriors to the Super League signals change, as the Warriors are the first team created solely for the 14-year-old competition. However, the Warriors admittance also signals a change in heart by the league’s members on what criteria must be met to join the Super League.
The Glendale Raptors applied for admission to the Super League in 2009 and were turned away. (It takes a two-thirds majority vote from the member clubs to admit a team into the Super League.) According to an online report published in October, RSL president Sean Kelly pointed to the Raptors’ lack of on-field consistency as the main reason their application was denied.
“We do have a scale on how we rank teams over a period of time and how they do, and we look to make sure that a team who is going to enter the Super League has some consistency of winning on the field,” said Kelly.
“Definitely there’s five or six criteria we look at. We do feel that Glendale has definitely aspired to a few of those, but the main one that we look at is on the field, because it doesn’t really make a difference what facility you have, what financial backing you have. Unless you can actually perform on the field that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?”
If indeed a winning consistency is what it’s all about, the Warriors would never have been admitted to the league, as they’ve yet to play or win a single game.
The Glendale Raptors, at the urging of an unnamed Super League team, again applied for the RSL this fall and were again denied. Why?
“I think that the (Denver) Barbarians lobbied the rest of the league quite well, and they were probably a major resource in the way some teams voted to allow Glendale in or not,” Kelly told RUGBYMag.com.
“Denver is not a big metro area like New York or Boston or even DC,” said Barbos president and RSL representative Lance French. “With that in mind, I don’t know if we lobbied as much spoke to all of our partner members and let them know that there’s not enough players in the Denver metro area, which we are actually the smallest market area in the league, to support and sustain two Rugby Super League teams.” (Salt Lake City becomes the league’s smallest market with the inclusion of the Warriors.)
Glendale director of rugby Mark Bullock believes Denver is big enough to support two RSL clubs and that the real crux of the issue is the Barbos don’t want the competition for players.
“I find it odd, and it’s really strange that they’re not looking to the future. And to their viewpoint, they are looking to the future, they’re looking to preserve and save the Denver Barbos, because apparently as an organization, the Denver Barbos feel they would not be able to compete with us if we were in the Super League,” Bullock said.
“I just come from this philosophy that that’s what it’s all about; rugby is all inclusive and players should be allowed to play where they want to play, and our job is to be on the field and compete for players, too, and players will pick teams that best fit them, at least that’s my feeling.”
French says it’s not about competition.
“It’s not a competition issue. We’re just looking at the demographics of the area, we’re looking at the available players within the area, we’re looking at the history of patterns of players who leave the colleges from the area,” he said.
“If it was a pro scenario…then that’s a different scenario; it’s a contract war, but now, at this point it time, it’s a war of attrition, and it’s a battle for making sure that if there are two teams in Denver, we’ve got to make sure two teams survive. I think it’s very short sided to think that both organizations would be able to succeed.”
As it stands, the Glendale Raptors are not in the Super League, and it may stay that way for some while, as the application process has left them unsure if they‘d even be interested in joining the league in the future.
“I’d say we’d have to certainly take a serious look at where we are, because the first time we weren’t apparently competitive enough, according to public statements by the Super League, and this time they’re not interested in us because of the Denver Barbarians situation,” said Bullock, “so if that’s the case, we would probably have to look at something different. It’s pretty obvious that the other Super League team in our area is not interested in us being in the league.”