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Do you want a better suburban league ground - or a better school?

Date

Steve Mascord

Discord

Fan favourite ... the hill at Leichhardt Oval.

Fan favourite ... the hill at Leichhardt Oval. Photo: Steve Christo

There are still small indicators of cultural difference between Australia and Britain, even in this homogenised world.

The Australian penchant for chancing, maybe even for gambling, is exemplified thousands of times a day at ATMs. People form lines in front of each machine, trying to guess which will move more quickly. An older person or someone with lots of shopping at the front? Get out of that queue!

Here in England, almost without exception, people form one orderly line and split to whichever ATM ("cashpoint", to most of them) becomes available first.

In recent weeks, I have seen another phenomenon in England that I don't think would ever occur in Australia: the masses having sympathy for the taxman.

When news broke that multi-nationals such as Google, Amazon and Starbucks were avoiding tax by funnelling profits through their overseas affiliates, people were outraged to the extent of setting up Facebook action pages and organising boycotts.

"That's schools and roads that weren't being built" was the reasoning.

I know this might be a cliched way of looking at national stereotypes, but my former AAP sports editor Bill Allan used to say cliches are there for a reason – there is inherent truth in them. And I find it hard to imagine too many Australians siding with the tax man in any circumstances.

Which is why the NSW government's new policy on suburban grounds is interesting.

In the UK, the European Union's plan to give money to wealthy professional soccer clubs was panned in the press this week. But Australians tend to pan governments for not giving professional sporting clubs money for ground upgrades.

I am not prepared to come out and say that Leichhardt, Campbelltown, Brookvale, Penrith and Kogarah do not deserve more funding. In the short-to-medium term, they probably do. But in the end, clubs have the discretion to take their bigger games to bigger stadia. Do you, the tax and rate-payer, want five or six Sydney Football Stadium's to pop up around the city, one for each NRL club?

That is, if it comes out of your tax and rates. If it came from the NRL's $1.025 billion worth of TV rights, then perhaps your answer would be different. It's easy parochial mileage to bleat about the death of suburban grounds, but the move away from them – just like the retreat from shoulder charges and playing concussed – is progress. Complain all you like; it's going to happen.

Eventually, we need to let the government fund grassroots sport and let big-time professional sport fund itself. John Grant keeps talking about the "business" of rugby league; relying less on taxpayer's cash is one of the consequences of this change in focus.

I will say this: if rugby league cannot survive without poker-machine income, it doesn't deserve to survive at all.

What about Festivus?

NEXT Monday is officially Sir Kevin Sinfield Day, in honour of England's current captain.

The day has been declared by Leeds Rhinos so we know it will be observed worldwide. We all know that on Christmas Day we give presents. At Easter we give Easter eggs.

What should we do to mark Sinfield Day?

Perhaps, kick a goal – literally or figuratively. Either boot a Steeden between the posts at your local park or ask for a raise or get engaged.

Perhaps you could watch Seinfeld, since that's how Kevin's name was spelt in a match program during an early representative appearance.

Or shave your hair so you look like you're balding, since BBC commentator Claire Balding said Sinfield was "the most impressive sportsman I've seen".

Write in and tell Discord how you spent Kevin Sinfield Day.

Let's go to the comments

FEEDBACK now: thanks for all the comments, on various platforms including leaguehq.com.au and stevemascord.com.

Pangkag Rao said sometimes the ball carrier was responsible for a shoulder charge. When the attacker drops his shoulder, the defender has to use his shoulder too. He also pointed out that when an offensive player was over the line and upright, the fullback often had little alternative but to shoulder charge and attempt to jolt the ball loose. Both good points – particularly the second one. It will be interesting to see if we have any penalties for in-goal shoulder charges.

Luke McMahon highlights the fact that we used to see the replacement rule as a "safety" issue and we went to unlimited replacements at one stage. Then we reined it in – and it was miraculously not a safety issue any more. He wants to severely limit replacements, to the point where only injured players can be interchanged. I think that might be a bit overboard – we have reintroduced fatigue by reducing interchanges already. But the big question is: should we ask medicos for their input on this, or should we wait for them to speak up if they see fit?

Zeeman made the point that other sports are becoming more dangerous. He has a good argument, but I don't see athletes continuing on with terrible injuries like they used to suffer in rugby league. Sure, formula one is dangerous, but we are not trying to convince hundreds of thousands of kids to participate in formula one every Saturday morning.

AO said tackling itself was probably more dangerous than shoulder charges. But you can have rugby league without shoulder charges, you can't have it without tackling. So that's why they targeted something expendable, I guess.

John of Brisbane, I bow to your superior historical knowledge on mediaeval executions. I wanted to read up on it in response, but the whole thing makes me queasy. However, Guy Fawkes did manage to die before he was drawn and quartered, by jumping from the hangman's block. But yes, I relied too much on the plaque in York. The aim was not to kill with the noose. Gulp.

Ausgronk, who is going to be throwing rugby league to the wolves? The ARL Commission?

I asked readers if next season was really going to be the longest ever. Bilko of Wigan said the longest was 295 days, in 1946-1947. David Brown writes on Twitter: "In 1962/63 season Hull KR first game was 18/8/62 last game 1/6/63 with no play off."

Put your comments below, but if you don't want to wait a week for a response, you can go here.

8 comments so far

  • I think you're wrong about the taxman.
    If a company in Australia weren't paying their taxes, people would get very angry.

    Commenter
    Jon
    Date and time
    November 29, 2012, 12:17PM
    • Sure, but that's true of companies in many countries, including the UK.

      All I'm saying is that it's stretching it a bit to suggest that Australians don't care if companies don't pay their taxes. Alot may not be aware of companies avoiding tax, but if they were, I have no doubt they wouldn't be ok with it.

      Commenter
      Jon
      Date and time
      November 30, 2012, 10:39AM
  • Hi Steve,

    Your section on suburban grounds is interesting. The Govt can't have it both ways in my opinion and local councils/businesses need the revenue from the associated spending with these grounds.

    The NSW Govt went ahead and funded Skoda Stadium - what is essentially a boutique suburban ground - right next door ANZ Stadium for what purpose? To appease the AFL administrators and GWS who have very few fans right now? And all because they didn't want GWS fans getting lonely in an 84k seat stadium.

    Will NRL clubs ever use it? A-League or Cricket? Highly unlikely. And GWS don't even play all there games there. Where are the calls for that to be moth-balled???

    Why can't Kogarah or Campbelltown or Brookvale become a 25-30k venue? In Kogarah's case it might be used by T20 and all of them can be offered to A-League clubs as well. Suburban grounds in the UK are popular too - why not follow their lead?

    If the NSW Govt is serious about centralising funding for Allianz and ANZ, then it needs to build the much anticipated tram from Central to Moore Park and make sure all trains to Homebush actually stop at Homebush, not change at Lidcombe!

    In my view you can never have enough footy grounds and Sydney suburban grounds have been around for 50-odd years and have been treated with absolute disrespect.

    I support bigger games being taken to bigger stadiums in an effort to move the game forward. But unless you're going to make it easy on the fans to travel then they will stay home and watch the greatest game on TV. It is, after all, a made for TV product.

    Commenter
    Starkers
    Location
    Haymarket
    Date and time
    November 29, 2012, 12:29PM
    • Your last comment sums up the problem NRL has - it is made for TV. Why travel to Brookvale when you can sit at home with a beer and your mates.

      Commenter
      Makesense
      Date and time
      November 30, 2012, 7:05AM
    • Weren't Manly and Norths funded by the government to move to Gosford. Some how that failed and Norths disappear and Manly reappeared as a single entity. You have two or three premierships since then. I can understand your gripe. Tony Abbott's negativity is catching on in his home turf.

      What about all the funding to protect you marine environment which the people of the west help pay for but really don't get to use it very often if at all.

      Swings and roundabouts

      Commenter
      kellybellyfonte
      Date and time
      November 30, 2012, 9:11AM
  • Regarding the tax issue. We are talking about companies who are making millions if not billions of dollars a year, not average Joe. Regarding ground improvements. I believe that the TV rights should fund ground improvements, with a little help form the government. Say the extra $1.5 million a year that the players acociation wants on the salary cap for each club, which would add up to $24 million a year. I would like the $24 mil a year to go to an NRL club for ground improvements, with another 5 mil a year from the federal government and another 5 mil a year from the state government where the improvements are done. Over a period of time each ground could be improved to a standard which we would all be happy with. Fans would be better off, clubs would be better off and recieve more revenue and the game itself would be richer. TV rights have finded the ground improvements to the Englich soccer clubs. Rugby league is a part of our culture.

    Commenter
    Devout Saint
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    November 30, 2012, 2:15AM
    • NRL clubs and fans are killing themselves and the game by hanging onto fixtured games at suburban grounds. The cost of maintenance and upgrades is killing the bottom line of clubs and robbing fans of quality facilities. Lets start looking at the way they doit in Melbourne. Retain the soul of the club at the home grounds but play home games at Homebush. The stadium and/or ARLC pays the clubs to play there as an incentive plus ticket sales. Increased gate taking due to a centralised game location.

      Commenter
      Makesense
      Date and time
      November 30, 2012, 7:01AM
      • I will say this: if rugby league cannot survive without poker-machine income, it doesn't deserve to survive at all.

        Right on, Steve.

        Poker machines were made legal in NSW in 1956 and this was the start of outside money coming into our game. Victoria did not have this luxury as poker machines did not become legal in that state until 1991. Whereas rugby league was able to build a game with money that flowed from leagues clubs AFL had to create a game that would bring big crowds to their games.

        Commenter
        Luke McMahon
        Location
        Byron Bay
        Date and time
        November 30, 2012, 8:27PM

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