sport

Group calls for greater voice

The Super League players' association wants the sport to learn the lessons from the fall-out which followed Bradford's financial crisis.

1eagu3, formed in July 2011 to represent the views of Super League players, has warned that the trauma experienced by the Bulls players this year could be repeated if preventative action is not taken.

Although the Bradford players were not directly affected by the redundancies imposed by the administrators at Odsal, a report published today highlights the difficulties caused by the uncertainty and confusion.

Dr Martin Littlewood, of Liverpool John Moores University, conducted one-to-one interviews with 10 of the Bulls players and 1eagu3, which commissioned the report, outlined its proposals for action at press conferences in Warrington and Bradford on Wednesday.

Bradford were the third Super League club to go into administration in two years and 1eagu3, which has almost 300 members, believes they may not be the last in the current economic climate.

"The problems suffered by Bradford could happen to any club within Super League," the association said in a statement.

"No club is immune to financial problems. If a club experiences financial difficulties, then the players should not be an afterthought when resolving those difficulties.

"Super League is the most vibrant and exciting elite sporting competition in the country yet the men who make it such a spectacle feel under-appreciated, under-valued and under-represented.

"It is clear that the players at Bradford could have received better support during that period.

"If the sport is to make progress with player satisfaction then these lessons should be learned and changes made to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated."

The report calls on 1eagu3 to be officially recognised by the game's governing body, the Rugby Football League, and to engage in at least quarterly meetings.

It also calls for the production of a single career-planning service for the players and for counselling services to be transferred from the RFL to improve the trust of the players.

St Helens and England forward Jon Wilkin, who is chairman of 1eagu3, said: "I hope that the RFL and the clubs listen to the views of the players and are prepared to work closely with 1eagu3 to improve player satisfaction within Super League."

Ernie Benbow, 1eagu3's chief executive, said: "The themes that emerge from the report lead us to a belief that there needs to be an improvement in the structure of the engagement and involvement of the professional players.

"It is they after all who are the heartbeat of the game. Their voice, engagement and involvement needs to improve and be enhanced.

"We now look towards open, positive dialogue with the RFL and clubs about the report messages and our recommendations. Let us grasp this opportunity to work together in partnership."