London Broncos defiant in the face of Super League adversity

With the Super League season fast approaching, London Broncos are battling to not only survive on the pitch, but justify their Super League status off it. 

International Management Group (IMG), a strategic partner of the British Rugby Football League, have suggested a grading criteria which puts the Broncos’ at risk of forced relegation. 

Clubs are judged in five areas – fandom, performance, finances, community and stadium – and the Broncos found themselves ranked 24th out of 35 sides, with a score of 8.07 out of 20. 

Head coach Mike Eccles said: “The IMG have given these black and white rules.

“On field performance is one thing and off-field is another, it’s there for everyone to see but we’re not where we need to be.

“Getting crowds in and increasing revenue stream is a massive part of us being in Super League long term.”

PREPARATION: Head coach Mike Eccles instructs London Broncos ahead of the Super League season.

Broncos are playing in their first top-flight season since 2019 after they stunned everyone by beating Toulouse Olympique in the Championship Grand Final. 

The transition from Championship to Super League has been drastic and the club had to renegotiate contracts for most of its players to move from part-time to full-time. 

Eccles said: “It is challenging because we had to do that really quickly.

“You’ve then got to upgrade them to full-time contracts and see if they can leave their jobs and things like that. 

“Then it was the facilities, making sure we have availability of the pitch in the day-time as opposed to in the evening.”

FOCUSED: Broncos have more contact time with each other since going full time.

While this transition poses a challenge in itself, the club face the daunting prospect of an opening day fixture away from home against one of rugby league’s most successful clubs, St Helens. 

Saints have won ten Super League titles, including four in a row between 2019 and 2022. 

After facing Saints on February 16, the Broncos’ baptism of fire continues with a visit from last year’s runners up, Catalan Dragons. 

However, the big positive for the Broncos is that by transitioning to full-time, the players get much more by way of contact time with their coaches. 

Eccles explained: “The difference is we have two extra days where we can sit down in front of the tv and work through video and through training. 

“It’s time that you don’t get when you’re part-time and for the players contact time has been the biggest difference.

“Two years ago when I started dealing with part-time players I realised the biggest miss was that loss of contact time with the players. 

“You had your A, B, Cs but your Ds and Es weren’t quite there. 

“Things like recovery, reviews, previews, that time just being sat down in the classroom was massively lacking.”

The Broncos, London’s only top-tier side, have long been the outlier in British rugby league, with the sport’s major stronghold being Yorkshire and the Northwest. 

In fact, the Wimbledon-based team are the only British outfit south of Sheffield playing in the top two tiers and at times this distance has meant challenges. 

Yet, Eccles explained that where the club has been questioned, attracting marquee players, producing home-grown players and attracting crowds, it has always responded. 

He noted: “London rugby league has answered all the questions that’s been thrown at them across their existence. 

“We built a team around some of the greatest players to have played the game like Shaun Edwards and Martin Offiah, we won the championship last year without a single northern based player and this year we’re operating at 70% home grown. 

“All the things the club gets questioned for, I would say we have achieved that in our history. 

“What we have never done is achieve them all together and I think this is a magical opportunity over the next few years for London rugby league to pull together all the things we have achieved.

“We have a great ground, we need to put bums on seats, we need a competitive team that has a home heartbeat, we can bring in a few star players alongside that as time goes by and hopefully we can be competitive and win something.” 

Featured image courtesy of London Broncos

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