Barwick hits back at criticism and opposition to TV deal

RFL chairman Brian Barwick has hit out at opposition to Super League‘s new television deal with Sky Sports.

Wigan chairman Ian Lenegan published a strongly worded statement in the press earlier this week, while Salford owner Dr Marwan Koukash was also critical of the deal at the Red Devils’ season launch on Tuesday.

According to Koukash, club chairmen were called to a meeting last Friday with 24 hours, where they were given a presentation and then asked to vote on whether to accept the proposed new deal, which will last until 2021.

There has been some criticism that no other broadcasters were involved with the talks, and the sudden announcement led to Premier Sports withdrawing from showing Championship games in 2014.

Barwick said: “I have been disappointed by the public response of a small minority of Super League clubs to the securing of a new broadcast agreement with our long-term partners, Sky Sports.

“Without question, Sky have provided an outstanding service to the game in producing both live and associated programming that has been the envy of many other sports. And they have done it for two decades.

“Therefore to retain this long-standing broadcast partnership, and at significantly increased financial terms, is indeed a great win for Rugby League. 

“Also, the terms of the new contract which starts in 2017 are so beneficial that they give Super League clubs, Championships clubs and the community game a fantastic, secure and long-sighted platform from which to build their futures and develop our great sport.

“As to the Super League clubs meeting last week, I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say, after hearing a comprehensive presentation on all aspects of the new deal, the clubs themselves voted to vote on the proposal.

“Most of the clubs recognised that the best result for the immediate future of the game was in front of them, as indeed the significant majority that voted in favour of the offer from Sky Sports underlined. The other clubs were able to vote against it as they saw fit, which is appropriate.

“What I feel isn’t appropriate, though, is the tone and content of the criticism by some of the Super League clubs who have their own reservations about the deal.

“This broadcast contract is the biggest in Rugby League history and actually offers Super League clubs an uplift of 63 per cent in annual distributions. It is also the latest in a number of upbeat initiatives we have enjoyed in recent months: with such a strong wind in our sails, I will not stand by and allow the sport to be blown off-course.”

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