“ Genre: Rugby / Monthly Issues „
Rugby League is often seen as a niche sport, so a magazine on the subject is probably doubly so. Despite this, Rugby League World (in various guises) has been going for over 20 years, so is clearly doing something right!
In fact the magazine has three key strengths which has seen it weather all kinds of storms over the years. These are coverage, writers and presentation. So, let's take a look at each of these in turn.
First of all, coverage: a magazine that calls itself Rugby League World had better make sure its coverage is pretty comprehensive, and RLW does just that. Obviously, in the UK (the magazine's primary market), most people are going to be interested in the top level of competition, Super League. RLW certainly delivers plenty of content on that front, presenting player interviews, a look at up-coming stars, features on individual clubs and so on. The coverage in this area is mostly excellent and will often give you insights into the game which you can't get elsewhere. Clubs and players certainly seem much more ready to open up to RLW than they do to other sources.
Crucially, though, the magazine recognises that there is more to Rugby League than Super League and its coverage of other areas is also pretty comprehensive. Every issue, there are features on the Championships (the levels below Super League), the NRL (the Australian competition), the international scene and even Rugby League in areas the casual fan wont be aware of. Did you know that the USA, Japan, Papua New Guinea and the Lebanon all play Rugby League, for example? Rugby League World provides regular updates the game in these far-flung places and gives some interesting insights into the difficulties facing them. Anyone who thinks Rugby League as a "northern sport" need only take a quick glance at RLW to see how wrong they are.
Of course, if you are genuinely only interested in the British game (and there are plenty of people that are), then around half of the magazine is likely to hold little of interest for you. Once you have passed the centre pages, you will find yourself skipping past much of the remainder, as they concentrate on the wide world of Rugby League. If this is you, you may resent paying £3.50 for a magazine you only read 50% of each month.
There is also a slight issue of bias. It is inevitable that the magazine gives more weight to the game's top flight than the semi-professional or amateur sides, and that is entirely understandable, since that is where the biggest market lies. What is less excusable is that fact that there is a definite bias towards Yorkshire clubs - particularly Leeds and Huddersfield (coincidentally, the nearest top flight clubs to where the magazine is published.) This is slightly annoying for those of us who hail from Lancashire, the right side of the Pennines (who won the Wars of the Roses anyway?!)
Ancient enmity aside, the magazine's second great strength is the writers. RLW features articles from a whole host of writers, all of whom are Rugby League men (and they are mostly men) through and through; their passion for the sport obvious. These are not just general sport writers churning out articles on Rugby League because their editor has told them to; they are people who have been brought up in the sport and who care deeply for it. Articles are always highly interesting and though-provoking and sometimes controversial. The thing all RLW writers have in common is that they are not afraid to express their opinions, which always makes for an interesting read.
True, some of the writers are better than others and this is because RLW draws people in from a wide background. Some are professional journalists whilst others are current or ex-players. As you might expect, the standard from the professional journalists are very high and their articles are well written, knowledgeable and informative. Contributions from the non-professionals can be a little more variable. Often they are more entertaining, as they take a light-hearted look at the game(the Jon Wells column is a case in point). Just occasionally, though, they come across as a little bit "chummy" and cliquey. This is particularly true of the column in which current Leeds Rhino's player, Jamie Jones-Buchanan interviews other current players. Frankly, I have yet to read one of his interviews which is remotely interesting - they just smack of JJB having a nice little chat with one of his mates, with lots of little in-jokes only of interest to interviewer and interviewee.
The style of some columnists can also be somewhat frustrating. Garry Schofield, for example, was a legend during his playing days, but his column is always unremittingly negative , moaning about the state of the modern game and how much better it was in the old days. True, Rugby League has some serious problems it needs to address, and the magazine is not shy in drawing attention to these. Where Schofield's column differs is that he constantly criticises the efforts of others, but rarely offers any practical solutions.
Presentation-wise, Rugby League World is very attractive. Printed on high quality paper, it's instantly visually appealing. Articles are well laid out and clearly printed, mostly employing black text on a white background (none of these awful colour backgrounds adopted by many magazines these days). It also has now discovered the right balance between text and photos. Early issues of the magazine were very text heavy and sometimes difficult to read. In the late 90s it swing too far the other way, printing full page pictures of players. These were of no interest to anyone except teenage girls who would engage in interminable debates over who was the "fittest" player (and I don't mean who could run the furthest). Now the balance is just right. Each article contains lots of text, but this is broken up by plenty of full colour photographs to make each article visually appealing and informative.
Of course, if you have no interest in Rugby League, then nothing is going to persuade you to buy this magazine. If you do, though, it's well worth the cover price of £3.50 each month. Packed with entertaining, well-written and thought-provoking articles it will open up your eyes to just how much Rugby League is played in the world. Now, if they'd just get rid of Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Garry Schofield...
Rugby League World
League Publications Limited
£3.50 per month
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