Has Sky been good for rugby league?

We have been innovators, not followers. We have been praised, not critcised. So why do so many people state that Sky has had an adverse effect on the sport of rugby league?nnSince the advent of Super League, Sky has brought video referees and new technology, better players and a much larger media coverage across the nation as a sport, which has coincided with a much larger commercial and sponsorship boom. nnAnd it seems so easy to discredit the National League’s in this instance, who have long suffered in the shadows of Super League. It is of my opinion that it is now time to start focusing on developing the lower leagues to aid them in their development.nnClubs like Rochdale and Doncaster have long suffered financially, and while this is down to lack of fanbases amongst reasons, a primary reason is that there has been no marketing from Sky or the RFL to get the National League’s on the map.nnNobody wants to see Batley or Featherstone anymore, do they? They want the elite. The creme de la creme.nnBut if the standard of competition, development and finances increases at the bottom, this will naturally improve all standards at the top.nnNo one can argue that the forementioned points have not been beneficial for the sport. Without video referees the amount of mistakes made will be higher, and while they are not used in every game, the usage of them in the Hull derby last season is a step towards them being utilised in all seven games, which from in my own personal opinion is the correct way to go as it improves equality across the park.nnFor example, two teams are fighting it out for the final play-off place in the last game of the season. One is featuring in the televised game, the other is not. The team on TV gets an advantage because the correct decisions can be made. The other club could have decisions against them that could cost them the game. We need this across the board, and it should be SKY that ultimately foot the bill. I am sure media mogul Rupert Murdoch will not mind if an extra few million go out his back pocket to stump up the costs.nnVideo referees have also appeared – following rugby league’s decision to have them (and success in using them) – in rugby union, cricket and tennis. nnAnd with all of this has come a bigger media coverage. It may not be noticeable will all major newspapers failing to recognise it as a major sport despite the excellent BARB viewing figures. The odd snippet is in The Times and The Guardian but it is barely enough to show any realistic development. And how many television adverts have you seen advertising the new Super League one season? I have seen one. Hardly good coverage for one of its major competitions.nnBut it’s not just these advantages, it has also brought professionalism, something which is arguably what all supporters call for in their respective club’s players. Gone are the days of players spending evenings down the pub during the week, while holding down another job such as a plumber, electrician or builder.nnRecent statistics released showed that more viewers were watching from outside the traditional heartlands, as opposed to within. nnWhile an amazing statistic, questions have to be raised whether these can actually be relied upon. Surely this could just be a case of fans moving further over the supposed North/South divide in search for a better lifestyle but still following the sport they love.nnBut what of the negatives. Well, for starters, SKY has the unbelievable knack of changing fixtures at the last moment in time. I have heard of several fans organising train journeys and days off work to attend games, and then finding out that SKY have moved the kick off time. Hardly good for the sport?nnNot only this, but it has also played a part in the ruin of several clubs. Keighley, Widnes, Sheffield have suffered recentl and clubs that in the past – such as Runcorn and Bramley – have disappeared off the map.nnSKY has also had an urge to see a national sport, and the RFL thus has helped the Celtic Crusaders and Harlequins juggernauts, while they’ve also enjoyed success with the Catalans adventure. But at what cost? Rochdale, Doncaster, Widnes all had financial problems. You decide.

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