Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify. Because the players are always changing, the team can move to another city, you're actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it. You know what I mean, you are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt, they hate him now. Boo! Different shirt!! Boo.

- Jerry Seinfeld The Label Maker

There are many reasons why someone ends up supporting the team they do, usually because it is the local side as that was the one to which they were first exposed. Once you become a fan though, it takes something significant to make you change you allegiance. You do not change sides simply because your team lost, or because your favourite player moves elsewhere.

Although in the UK it is rare, though not unusual, for a team to physically move locations, the shirts are redesigned annually. Unlike American baseball uniforms, which remain mostly unchanged a century later, those of British sports teams are redesigned on a regular basis to be used as a source of income from the selling of replica kits. Also unlike America, the clothing worn on a sports field is seen as valuable advertising space and so a change of sponsor also forces a new look.

It is, therefore, very difficult to state exactly what it is that we support. The players change, the owners change, the clothing changes, the grounds change, the only continuity seems to be the fans. This question of identity is one that many rugby league fans in London and the south of England are currently facing.

Fulham RLFC were founded by the Fulham Football Club in 1980 but were disowned after four unprofitable years. The club continued to survive though. Playing wherever they could claim as a home, they finally dropped the long-since redundant name to become the London Crusaders in 1991. A few years later the Brisbane Broncos joined the list of temporary owners, renaming them to the London Broncos in the process.

Despite this they still had no home of their own and so continued to change grounds every few years. This had two major impacts on the sustainability of the club. Landlords were able to impose high rental agreements and retained a disproportionate amount of the revenue raised from hospitality and catering. It also made it impossible for them to settle into any community, resulting in a cycle of having to start from scratch to introduce themselves and the game to a new audience.

On Tuesday, as expected, the London Broncos and the NEC Harlequins announced that they will be joining together from next season. Already having been rumoured for several months this came as little surprise, the questions that fans were waiting to hear answered was about the details of the new arrangement.

Although there had been talk of a merger or takeover the two will remain as separate entities but working together as a single club under a five year partnership agreement. The intention though is that once this period expires they will look to move closer together, most likely in a merger. As a result of this 'one club' notion the Broncos will, for the first time since being formed, have a permanent home at the newly renamed Twickenham Stoop. Unlike the period betwixt 1997 and 1999 when they previously played at this stadium, this time they will no long be simply a rent paying tenant, and will also be able to take full advantage of the stadium's facilities.

More controversially though they become one club by taking both the image and the name of their partners. From next season the rugby league team will play as "Harlequins RL". The red and gold of the Broncos will be also be replaced by a new strip based on the traditional Harlequins quartered design.

For some this is a step too far. The club that will begin the eleventh Super League season will have no resemblance to the one that will end this season. Twenty-five years after a rugby league club came to life under the guise of an association football one, today they were reborn under a rugby union one. But has this come at a price?

In many ways the move the club is planning to take is no different to those of the past. This is not the first time that the name and the colours have been abandoned in return for ensuring they have a future. What is different this time, though, is that they are joining with a rugby union club and old prejudices, justifiable in their time, are proving difficult for some to let go.

In an era when association football is all-pervasive, and dominates the UK sporting market, both forms of rugby face a battle for survival in the consciousness of a mostly apathetic society. The best way of achieving this is through co-operation. Even if those in power at the RFU still see rugby league as an enemy and a threat this view is seemingly not shared by those who involved in the day-to-day running of the game. The clubs of both codes face the same harsh realities of a marginalized existence and know that they need to work together.

Already we have seen Super League's Wigan join with Orrell and Bradford with the now defunct Wakefield rugby union sides. The closest and most successful such venture, though, has been Leeds Rugby. Here the Rhinos and Tykes are already functioning as two teams from one club and showing that the two codes can indeed work together Last year this resulted in winning major trophies in both codes.

London have also turned to Rugby Union for help before, the academy side currently plays its home matches at the Ruislip RUFC. As well as having been a previous tenant at the Stoop, several first team games have also been hosted by other rugby union clubs when they were forced to be taken on-the-road. These were games the Broncos count not play at 'home' due to the pitch being unavailable to them. This further damaged the chances of the club establishing itself when it played several of its home games not only outside of London, but on occasion outside of the country.

In a area with a population of over seven million people it is difficult to establish a new brand. This is especially true with the limited resources that a rugby league club has at its disposal, but this is just what the Broncos have been attempting to do. A problem exacerbated by having played at various locations throughout Greater London. With each move they have had to restart this process. The current base in Griffin Park is only a few miles from their new home though so hopefully this should not pose such a problem this time.

After eleven years the only real impact they have made was a 1999 Challenge Cup final appearance, the last to be played at the original Wembley Stadium. But even that is long forgotten by many who are not fans of the game. If people come to a match then the experience and the game can be left to sell themselves, first though you need people to know you exist and to turn up. It is this lack of awareness that makes the challenge to the club so difficult.

Conversely the Harlequins name is long established, going back to 1870. It is also known throughout the country as being a rugby club. While it might seem that taking on the identity of a rugby union club could be counter-productive in attracting supporters to rugby league, this is unlikely to be a problem. Beyond those who are fans of either rugby code - to whom the issue is moot as they will already understand who and what the RL team are - there is little understanding of the difference between league and union. Many people do not even realize there are two entirely separate sports called "rugby".

Yet while from a marketing perspective changing names makes perfect sense, tradition is also important within sports. It is this abstract notion of continuity to which people attach them self and become emotionally invested. For a club that has survived through adversity and had to battle against rugby union, can this simply be a change of branding? It is still only just over a decade ago that the RFU were banning players for life if they played 'the professional code'.

One of the characteristics that has marked rugby league as a sport is that it is unashamed to be forward looking. Ever since breaking away from the Rugby Football Union the game has constantly evolved and reinvented itself while rugby union remains pretty much the same game it did in 1895. While the heritage of the game is important, it should never allowed to hold back progress and development.

This is where the London Broncos have faced the boldest of decisions. Do they accept the century-old widespread feelings of distrust that still exist between the two codes, or do they take the controversial step to become, what is for all-intents and purposes, a rugby union club playing rugby league?

Earlier this year they came close to being closed down. After the Inland Revenue refused to accept a Creditors Voluntary Agreement (CVA) their very survival came down to an emergency meeting of the Super League. After a narrow vote a new business to take over the running of the club but this came with a set of conditions requiring them to restructure in order to not end up in the same situation. Simply managing to survive for yet another year was not only undesirable, it was no longer an option.

As well as the lack of awareness of the "Broncos" name, it is also a difficult one to market. After having taken the name in 1994, the Denver Broncos sued the club over trademark infringement and this has since limited the ways in which it can be used to brand the club. As such it makes perfect sense to drop this name, which was forced onto them, in favour of one with which they can make full use to define the club's image. What is being more felt though is the loss of the "London" identity.

Even this aspect of the name was felt to be a problem felt by some. "London" does not really represent anything. Greater London, a 1965 creation for local government, is too new, too artificial, and too vast an area to carry a single identity. Clubs in Lancashire or the West Riding do not even travel as far to some away games as a fan would to get from The Valley to the Griffin Park, the Broncos most recent two homes. The communities around these two grounds in Charlton and Brentford also identify themselves distinctly.

London is not a city but a region comprising many different towns and boroughs. Since leaving Fulham the only times when the club has even played within the traditional county of London were the years spent at The Valley. While a London name is marketable on a national level it has less impact locally. Previous attempts at "London" named teams in other sports have also failed with only the ex-patriot rugby union teams, such as London Welsh, having been able to make them last. Meanwhile the London Skolars continue to attempt to defy this fate in rugby league.

In spite of this there is feeling that the new side should have retained the "London" prefix as part of their name. This would ensure that not only would the club retain some of its image but also that it establishes some continuity between the old and new eras of the club. To completely abandon names will undo all the work that has been done to promote the brand over the last fifteen years.

There is also the risk that the partnership may not work. While there is no reason to doubt the resolve of either party it is still a possible outcome. Should this happen it will not the be rugby union club left not only homeless, but without an identity. It would seem that in any conventional business sense the Broncos have become a franchisee of the Harlequins club; a separate business sharing their resources and operating under their name and image.

Hopefully this situation should not arise. Both clubs can, and should, gain by this arrangement. Those who own and run the rugby league team and not mere businessmen but fans fo the game themselves. They have just as much invested in the success of the club emotionally as they do financially and will undoubtedly work hard in order to make this arrangement work.

For rugby league this move provides the greatest opportunity to establish the game outside of the north of England. Opportunities are open to the Broncos that they have never had before and if they are taken the club should have a bright future. It will take time though. This just leaves the fans who now have several months before the first game played by Harlequins RL to work through for themselves how they feel about this future.

It seems likely that a minority will choose to abandon the side, though this should be offset by rugby union fans choosing to support this new aspect of their club. But if a club is defined by the continuity of its fans then does this make it a different club? After all the venture does set out the aim of being two teams playing for one club, that club being Harlequins.