Farrells’ Forum: Cheeky Devil Koukash is at it again

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Farrell’s Forum favourite Dr Marwan Koukash is at it again, the millionaire racehorse owner has declared that as of next season Salford City Reds will be rebranded as Salford Red Devils.

“This is all part of a major plan to rebrand the club, make a new start and make more people aware of who we are,” said 54-year-old Dr Koukash.

“[Red Devils] is a far stronger and appealing title and I am sure the fans will be excited by it.

“We are up against teams in Super League who are known as the Bulls and the Warriors and I want us to be seen as the Red Devils. Warriors playing the Red Devils sounds so much better.”

The move is a smart, albeit clear ploy to tap into the nearby Manchester United – also known as the Red Devils – fan base who may be persuaded to try an alternative to football during the summer months. No doubt Dr Koukash (pictured right) hopes that the rebranding may provide a possible avenue to forge a direct link to the Old Trafford club in the future.

Interestingly, the Red Devils was the nickname given to Salford in 1934 by a French journalist following a test series match, so while the name change is one that aims to take the club forward it’s also a nod to club’s past.

With a clear restructuring off the field it’s important that Dr Koukash and his coach, Brian Noble get it right on the field too. It’s still early days under Dr Koukash’s ownership but the promises of marquee signings have yet to materialise and Salford are still a long way off being consistently competitive in Super League.

However, Super League as we currently know it may also be in for a rebranding of its own, as all Super League and Championship clubs are set to vote on a proposed and potentially radical restructuring of the competition.

Three options have been suggested, with a return to promotion and relegation, in some capacity, looking likely, although no changes will be introduced until the 2015 season.

Warrington coach, Tony Smith reacted angrily to the news:

“I’m over the innovative tag for rugby league. What about being stable, strong and consistent?” he said.

“Instead of asking ‘what are we doing well and what is working for us?’ we say ‘let’s change the whole thing again’ or ‘I’ll give you A, B or C to choose from as I don’t know what is going to work’.”

There are many arguments for and against both the current franchise system and the promotion-relegation model. My personal view is that the franchise system should stay.

Regulated fairly and correctly it gives clubs the opportunity to plan long-term with a competitive safety net, to develop young, local players, and (in theory) ensure they achieve financial stability – I realise the recent plights of Salford and Bradford are at odds with the last part of that argument somewhat.

I would like to see the current format of the competition remain the same but with a reduced number of teams, theoretically leading to a more competitive Super League.

I would also like the return of a reserve grade competition of some sort, whether that be the recently defunct under-20s or the old alliance division, in which I developed my game before making the jump to first-grade, and which provided a competitive breeding ground for many current stars.

The decision by club officials, not the RFL, to eradicate of that level of competition, made purely for financial reasons, and to replace it with the farcical dual-registration system, which has seen seasoned Super League players replace young and aspiring players at Championships clubs for the odd game here and there, is truly scandalous.

It will, in my opinion, harm our elite competition and national side immeasurably in the next five years as many young players will not have played enough quality rugby league to develop sufficiently into Super League or international standard players.

I cannot agree more with Tony Smith’s comments, the RFL has prided itself somewhat on its innovation over the years, but now with the game seemingly in a state of disarray over a number of issues – no commercial sponsor for Super League, dual-registration, farcical Challenge Cup draws to name but a few – now is surely the time for stability, strength and consistency to drive the game forward.