As the final hooter sounded at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon, any chance London Broncos had of avoiding relegation this season was over. A 72-12 defeat to Warrington, London’s 20th consecutive loss in the Super League this season, means the Broncos’ inevitable relegation has now been confirmed. It was all a familiar story for London’s players, coaches and fans, with Joe Grima’s side now joining the Kingstone Press Championship in 2015.
Perhaps London’s biggest achievement this year is the fact they were able to compete in Super League at all, after financial troubles in 2013 left the club’s future in a state of uncertainty. Last year’s off season was a difficult time for all involved at the club, having lost 21 players, their home ground and with the very real threat of the club folding hanging over them.
However, the club was able to pick itself up off the ground, with a deal to relocate to The Hive and recruiting 16 players, as well as keeping their key man, Kieran Dixon, despite the youngster being out so far this season with a serious knee injury.
In contrast, whilst this time last year the club’s future was in doubt, this time round, despite their relegation, the club is talking and acting positively about what lies ahead. Promising youngsters progressing through the academy system have been tied to long term contracts, Andrew Henderson has come in as assistant coach and The Hive will continue to be the home of the Broncos for 2015 at least.
The Championship is an ideal league for London to drop in to as they look to rebuild. The opportunity to win promotion back to the Super League will make the Championship a more competitive league, especially should the Broncos finish in the top 4 next season, which under the new format would see them face the bottom 4 sides from the Super League. Teams such as Leigh, Featherstone and Halifax possess qualities similar to a Super League side, as well as the ‘summer bash’, a Championship alternative to the Magic Weekend being introduced from next season, to look forward to.
London’s relegation is a massive blow for the RFL however, whose long term goals of increasing the sport’s awareness and popularity in the south of England will prove more difficult without the presence of a southern team competing in the Super League. The Broncos had struggled this season to attract new or even existing fans to the ground, with attendances being disappointingly low at just over 1000 throughout the season. It will prove to be a more difficult challenge to bring in the crowds next season when the club is the second tier.
London will now be looking to finish the season with a win and avoid becoming the first side to finish a Super League season winless. Likewise, fellow relegation favourites Bradford could see their hopes of Super League survival end next week should they lose away to Huddersfield.