Comment: Clash of codes in Manchester is an insult to rugby league fans

The decision of Rugby Union World Cup organisers to schedule England’s final pool game on the same day as the Super League Grand Final, in the same city, is questionable at best.

Grand Final day is marked in the calendars of rugby league fans from the moment the season begins. For a game that lives in the shadows of others, the Grand Final provides a platform for some, albeit fleeting, world-wide recognition.

For one day a year only, rugby league dares to believe that the world of sport will have its eyes firmly on Old Trafford and recognise the sports greatness.

It is the chance for a largely under-represented sport to exhibit everything that makes it fantastic and to boast its biggest assets.

Why take that away from the great game?

Saturday, October 10 sees Manchester play host to two huge occasions in the game of rugby.

At six o’clock, the First Utility Super League Grand Final will kick off at Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

Just as the rugby league champions will be being presented with their trophy, the England Rugby Union team will be kicking off their final World Cup Pool A match against Uruguay at the Etihad Stadium, the home of Manchester City football club.

These giant sporting events will lead 130,000 spectators to Manchester as both are certain to attract near-capacity crowds.

Old Trafford has been a rugby league fortress since 1998, as each year up to 75,000 rugby league fans have travelled to the Theatre of Dreams to witness the crowning of the Super League champions.  This year should be no different, especially with Manchester’s own Super League representative, Wigan Warriors, being one of the finalists.

For fans of both codes though, a decision has had to be made.

Is it Old Trafford or The Etihad?

Is it rugby league or union?

England’s game against Uruguay is the only match of their World Cup campaign to be held outside of London. This is therefore the best chance for northern-based lovers of union to attend an England World Cup game.

This said, many of these people will also be fans of rugby league, and by putting these two fixtures on the same day, close in time to one another means that supporters of both codes have to make a decision and ultimately choose their favourite.

To add insult to injury the two games are being held within touching distance of each other.

Scheduling the England rugby union match on the Friday or Sunday would have made for a fantastic weekend of celebration in Manchester and indeed the north of England for both codes of the game.

Pitching the two events almost simultaneously ultimately enhances the struggle that the two games have traditionally experienced in working alongside one another.

Could you imagine an England Rugby World Cup game being played at The Etihad whilst the Champions League Final was being held at Old Trafford? Or at the same time as the Red Devils playing at home to a Chelsea or a Liverpool?

Not in my opinion.

Rugby union organisers simply would not put their game up against a football game with such magnitude, so why do they feel they can do it against the biggest game in English rugby league?

It is insulting not only to the sport but more importantly to the fans.

The spotlight that usually shines bright on rugby league on Grand Final day will be distinctly dimmer next Saturday as a result of the arrogance of the World Cup organisers.

Images courtesy of Sky Sports and the Rugby World Cup, via YouTube, with thanks.

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