It seems ironic that after years of complaining about no TV coverage for the Championship, we now have complaints about it happening.
But Leigh owner Derek Beaumont is right to raise questions over why Toronto Wolfpack have apparently been allowed to negotiate a deal with Premier Sports to televise all their games in 2018 without their knowledge.
The controversy began after Beaumont’s tweet below following an advert promoting Premier Sports’ coverage of the Wolfpack’s games in 2018.
I can confirm @PremierSportsTV have no agreement with @LeighCenturions to show our game with @TOwolfpack despite their advertisement in @leagueexpress if they want to discuss the possibilities they are welcome to get in touch! Merry Crimbo ??
— Derek john beaumont (@derek_beaumont) December 23, 2017
I always put people right that they don’t take anything out of the sport and are not funded. There’s no money for promotion only central funding and they get none. My issue isn’t with them it’s a broadcaster advertising they filming a game live from our ground unknown to us!
— Derek john beaumont (@derek_beaumont) December 24, 2017
Premier Sports irked rugby league fans during the World Cup by pulling arguably the game of the group stage, between New Zealand and Samoa, at the eleventh hour, instead opting to show New Zealand’s World Cup football qualifier against Peru live, and showing the Kiwis “as live” later on in the day.
They appear to have lost the rights for the NRL for the new season, though nothing has been confirmed – with some sort of live streaming facility run by the NRL set to be the likely method for UK fans to watch games from Down Under in 2018.
Of course, last season Premier Sports televised all of Toronto’s games in League 1, enabling their fans to watch games played in the UK and also allowing UK-based fans to watch the games live (or as live in some cases) over in Canada.
The issue here isn’t the fact that Toronto games are being televised – it is again the lack of transparency and communication which makes rugby league look unprofessional, especially when you consider the competition is yet to replace Kingstone Press as its title sponsor.
Said Championship club unhappy clubs kept in dark and not told Premier would be showing games at their stadium next year without receiving any money. Stems from similar frustrations aired by Leigh owner Derek Beaumont. Some clubs found out via ad on Premier website
— Aaron Bower (@AaronBower) December 31, 2017
— Bilko (@wiganrlfans) December 31, 2017
Assuming there are no surprises from Sky Sports regarding coverage of the Championship in 2018, this will now be the fourth consecutive season there has been no regular live televised games from the division.
Sky Sports did used to show a weekly game on a Thursday night, before first losing the rights to Premier Sports and then moving Super League action to that slot.
Token coverage of the Summer Bash is offered, but the weekly exposure for the Championship has diminished considerably over the past decade, harming its clubs.
While there is an argument that says coverage of Toronto’s games on Premier Sports is good exposure, it is surely not extensive on Premier, and clearly not beneficial for everyone in the division.
Sky Sports should be made to either show regular Championship games or relinquish the rights to others – particularly now given that online streaming is so prevalent; we at Love Rugby League would even live stream games if allowed.
Frustratingly, it is another albeit minor embarrassment when it comes to communication and coverage – both crucial when it comes to attracting commercial revenue. A lot of minor issues have built up over the years that now mean each occurrence feels pretty major.
It will be interesting to see how things pan out – here’s hoping the final solution is a weekly Championship live game on TV or even streamed online; we can but dream.