The BBC’s policy of broadcasting the Super League Show only in northern regions has always been contentious, but it has never seemed more patently ridiculous than it did on the opening weekend of the engage Super League. As self-defeating arguments go you’ll do well to see better than this.
The summary told us the show would be broadcast from Twickenham Stoop, featuring highlights from Crusaders v. Leeds in Wrexham and Harlequins v. Wakefield in London – two places where the SLS wasn’t being broadcast on Sunday. The introduction to the show had Tanya Arnold telling us “Wrexham welcomes Super League” and “Kick off at The Stoop”. This was followed by Dave Woods reporting from Super League’s official launch – in London – and an interview with Quins chief executive Paul Blanchard about expansion – also in London.
Throughout the entire show there was scarcely any mention of the North of England – the only place where this was being broadcast on that Sunday – which makes you wonder what, exactly, is the logic behind the BBC’s policy on the SLS. Whatever you think about teams like Harlequins and Crusaders, surely this makes no sense: to have a show based almost solely on goings on in London and Wrexham and then only show it in the northern regions. Presumably the BBC still think only northerners are interested in rugby league, which begs the question – why are they broadcasting from London?!
Of course the BBC has given in to those who make this argument by repeating the SLS nationally. So now if you’re interested in rugby league and happen to live in Wrexham or London you can enjoy the show – at around 4am on Sunday night. But that’s really more of an insult than anything else: were the schedules really so full that the only slot available was in the middle of the night? Or perhaps the BBC is committed to helping rugby league-supporting insomniacs throughout the land.
You could argue that, as the SLS is shown online this isn’t a problem anymore. Yet not everybody has that facility; there are people out there who don’t have the internet, and follow the more traditional method of watching television on their television. Often a person’s connection may be too poor to be able to use the BBC iPlayer. Living in student accommodation, I find that when faced with my abysmally slow connection the BBC iPlayer sometimes just gives up the fight minutes into whatever I want to watch.
Whether you get to watch the SLS on Sunday or not is something of a lottery: the BBC regions don’t exactly correspond to areas of high and low rugby league interest. Therefore while the show wasn’t broadcast to Wrexham or London – where the only Super League games of the weekend were actually played – you were able to follow the latest news and views from the rugby league world in such hotbeds of support as Grantham, Skegness, Gainsborough, Spilsby, Ingoldmells and Donna Nook, among others.
There isn’t any serious reason why the SLS can’t be broadcast nationally on Sunday afternoon. Are people in the South really crying out for a repeat of Escape to the Country? I imagine this is just as frustrating for Harry Gration, Dave Woods and others. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the producers decided to broadcast the show from London as a rather pointed statement to the decision-makers who maintain the Super League Show’s Northern exile.
Hopefully those responsible for the decision will rectify things sooner rather than later, because in the award-winning Super League Show they have a product worthy of being broadcast nationally. Especially when they’re highlighting games in Wrexham and London!
Keep Your Eye on Rugby League – We Do