Here in the UK the majority of the sports coverage has been on the most exciting football season in a long while. Oh sorry, ‘soccer’ season. So much so that a lot of sports fans are missing out on what could be the closest and most exciting Super League season since its inception.
Now we don’t have the coverage, the sponsors, the viewers, the followers or the interest that the NRL gets in Australia however if this year we marketed the game the right way we could introduce new fans into Super League who will become fans for life.
Premier Sports has become a way of living in my household as it gives me access to the greatest league of the greatest game of all with every single NRL game in the competition being televised along with the hilarious Footy Show. As amazing as this is for us UK viewers it is also putting us to shame with our two game coverage of Super League which we get from Sky Sports. I’ve found myself trying to live in two different time zones to keep up with all the NRL action live and if that fails there is the trusty record button whilst I catch up on some sleep.
Two games a week is nowhere near enough if we want to introduce new fans to this great sport here in the UK, especially if one of those is wasted on having to watch London take a hammering whilst elsewhere a competitive and exciting game is being missed. London have taken a hammering on and off the field this year and I try not to give them too much stick but it is hard when you’re weekly fix is wasted on a one sided game which is enough to scare anyone away from Rugby League.
We have seen some surprise packages for the first time in a long while with Widnes and Castleford emerging as genuine top eight contenders. Salford haven’t got off to the start the doctor wanted and neither have last years’ league leaders Huddersfield. St Helens have had a brilliant start to the year and look like they could end their trophy drought as they are set for a strong campaign. At last we have a battle at the bottom, although London are looking favourites to go down, the bad starts for Catalan, Bradford and Wakefield have made an interesting start to the relegation fight.
All of this is a massive change from watching Wigan, Warrington and Leeds compete for the title whilst those at the bottom get hammered by the top teams because they have nothing to play for. The threat of relegation has given them everything to play for as they will lose their place in Super League as it trims itself to a 12 team competition for its new structure. This is great for the sport but is it being wasted as no one outside of the rugby league fan club is witnessing it?
We all dream of having all of our games televised like the NRL although that is not realistic when the marketing of the sport is non-existent and the income from investors and sponsors is just not enough. Marwan Koukash seems to get in the headlines for the wrong reasons a lot of the time and if you smooth down those rough edges he could be the right man for a lot of clubs in Super League. At the moment though he is what we need, a rich and controversial character who is ploughing money into his club and the game as well as turning a lot more heads than has been the case in recent years. If he shows other wealthy investors that you can make money in the sport and make your club successful then we could be on the way to branching out to the audience that this brilliant sport deserves.
The Rugby League World Cup made a record profit which is reported to have risen to £4million and the crowd figures at all venues were brilliant for the game. The final between New Zealand and Australia near enough sold out the huge venue that is Old Trafford so what has the RFL done to continue that? In a word nothing. We have seen no World Cup legacy over six months on from the tournament as nothing has been done to build on the great work which was done in October. Crowds in Super League may be up but it is nothing on the crowds we witnessed during the tournament as we have not seen an attempt from the governing body to keep the new fans we gained in the winter.
I’m excited to see the outcome of this season as I am expecting it to unfold into one of the best yet, not to mention the fact that Widnes Vikings are looking like a top eight side and are in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals, but we will leave my personal opinion out of this!
We need to showcase this sport for what it is and show newcomers that it is an exciting, fast and free-flowing sport which can easily have anyone hooked. All that Super League lacks is the people capable of making this sport more accessible and more popular in the UK.
As we come to the end of the Premier League season let’s hope that we get a lot of football fans filling the void in between now and the FIFA World Cup with some rugby league.