Live streaming games is the way forward, admits Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell

Drew Darbyshire

Featherstone Rovers chairman Mark Campbell thinks Rugby League fans are ‘tailor-made’ for the sport to live stream matches.

Live streaming has started to come into the digital landscape of sport over the last couple of years. Wigan were the first UK-based club to stream a game LIVE on Facebook when their Under-19s faced local rivals St Helens last year. The Warriors have continued to stream Academy games LIVE on Wigan TV, the club’s subscription service.

Proper Sport are streaming Bradford Bulls games LIVE on Facebook this season. Live streaming has proved popular amongst fans.

And Campbell thinks it’s the way forward for broadcasting the sport.

He said: “There is a substantial television deal currently in place, which, along with the existing structure, was agreed and signed a fair few years ago now. It is set to run until the end of 2021.

“However, the television viewing world is rapidly changing. Since the contract commenced, the landscape has altered and will change even more over the next few years. I believe the sport’s fanbase is tailor-made for such changes, however. Rugby league supporters are not only fans of a club but are fans of the game as a whole.

“I feel sure the modern-day rugby league fan would watch a live game every day if he or she could and. I believe, through streaming across a range of different devices, we can generate huge viewing figures and attract much bigger players in terms of commercial revenue.

“Sky have been massive for rugby league and continue to be so. Sky Go, in my opinion, would provide a fantastic platform for fans to get their fix – at any time.

“We must move with the times in order to stay relevant and worthy of investment. I believe the likes of Amazon Prime or Netflix could potentially consider the idea of owning the sport’s broadcast rights – at all levels. They could potentially purchase more specific rights to games, events or tournaments, as they do with football.”

And Campbell is frustrated that the Betfred Championship hardly gets any coverage on television, with the second-tier’s broadcast rights being limited to Sky Sports.

He added: “People want to watch on demand and the current broadcast deal, albeit crucial for the sport’s current style of operation, is somewhat limiting. Bradford Bulls streamed their recent game at York, via Facebook, and over 120k viewers tuned in. The game has been since watched time and time again and the numbers are continuing to increase.

“We are currently unable to broadcast live, as a result of the restraints of the Sky contract over the Championship. This is allowing League 1 clubs to experiment and grow. It is also beginning to prove that the divisions outside of Super League do boast a significant value, which, in the past, has been disputed when it comes to broadcast deals. 

“We are currently unable to enjoy the level of exposure, for example, which Toronto are enjoying – across the globe. They, as a non-member RFL club, have been able to piece together their own broadcast deal – outside of the Sky contract. 

“The potential viewing figures would undoubtedly attract huge, blue-chip names to line up alongside rugby league.

“It would see us take the lead, as a sport, all over again. Rugby league has never been shy in trying out new technology and structures and this is the time to capitalise on these new and exciting opportunities.”