IT’S become as predictable as a flame-throwers, confetti and champagne at Old Trafford.

At the end of the Million Pound Game the week before, the losing coach – and most often the winning gaffer too – calls for the match to be scrapped.
Corey Patterson
It’s one thing to celebrate the team that qualifies for a big final from the top of the table, and commiserate with the other side from up there who is beaten on the big day.

But – so the argument goes – it’s cruel to create an event out of a scrap at the bottom.

“The scenario around it and the uncertainty is ridiculous,” said Leigh coach Neil Jukes after the 26-10 defeat to Catalans at Leigh Sports Village.

“You talk a lot about player welfare and mental health. That comes around job security and finances and this is just a complete hypocritical (approach to) what we stand for.

“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get relegated but the legality of everything around it and the finances and the stuff what’s still up in the air, ultimately people lose jobs.

“That’s sickening and in that changing room there, there are some warriors, tough men. They’re crying.”

Sam Moa, on Sky TV, echoed these thoughts: “How can we as players be happy to move on, knowing they have to find new jobs and they’ve got mortgages to pay, they’ve got families to support? It’s very hard. There’s emotion there at the end but I’m glad we won.

“As the captain of this team today and as a club, I’d just like to send our condolences to Leigh. We think they deserve to be in the game.

“This isn’t a concept or this isn’t a game that we enjoy to play in as players.”

“Mental health” and “condolences” are heavy terms to bring into the post-match dissection of a piece of sport. Is their use justified? Perhaps one of the key comments on Saturday evening came from the Catalans coach, Steve McNamara.

“If you want promotion and relegation, take the gloves off and have no salary cap,” McNamara said. “Let the clubs spend what they want.”

With the rise of Castleford, Wakefield and Hull, surely a spending free-for-all would undo all the good work and return us to a “usual suspects” competition. But what Steve Mac describes, we kind of have.

We do now have is a system under which League One teams can spend as much as a Super League side. That’s how Toronto can afford to bid for, say, Sean O’Loughlin, if they want to. If Toronto were in Super League and played in the £1m game, they could argue that “jobs will be lost” if they lose but who’d have sympathy for them, given that they had pitted a fulltime side against part timers on the way up?

Couple this with the fact that Leigh owner Derek Beaumont has undertaken to keep a fulltime squad and the idea that losing £1m Game players might end up on the streets starts to look a little problematic. Some players might end up part time next year but will it actually be more than the natural attrition rate at any Super League club?

A good story to settle this argument would be to trace the career trajectories of every losing £1m Game player since the concept was introduced. Great feature idea, colleagues. Did they go broke? Were they forced into retirement?

Perhaps clubs must undertake at the start of each season to remain full time for at least 24 months – or else if they end in the relegation zone they automatically go down that year with no £1m Game played.

See, then, if clubs would willingly opt out of such a “ridiculous” game. I’m guessing they’d find the financial bond necessary to underwrite another season of paying full freight.

The point is that professional sports is not about players or coaches. The fact they don’t like something should have little or no impact on whether that thing exists. Professional sport is about providing a pleasant diversion at the weekend for the masses.

Each week the players get dressed up in bright colours, pull their socks all the way up and risk injury simply for the amusement of those in the stands and those at home. That’s what they do, like jugglers, fire breathers, rock stars and clowns.

They could lose their livelihood by playing poorly as an individual. They can now – very starkly – lose it by playing poorly as a group.

Yes, make sure they club is going to remain fulltime before the £1m Game kicks off.