Mediawatch: Does it matter if Sky Sports care, as long as they pay the money?

James Gordon
Brian Carney / Sky Sports

Photo by James Heaton/News Images

Your slightly serious, slightly tongue-in-cheek look at what’s going on in the world of rugby league in the media.

A moral victory for last month’s column, as Warrington’s Paul Vaughan appeared on the Super League website just days after our column highlighting his invisibility. Hurrah.

It’s not gone unnoticed that Sky Sports appear to be making regular errors, no matter how basic, when it comes to their rugby league coverage.

Their build-up to the Good Friday derby double was hindered by some technical issues that prevented the show starting until just prior to kick-off – these things can happen.

Unfortunately for Sky Sports, it was another stick for fans who allege that they don’t care (they do) about the sport to beat them with.

It creates comparisons with the Channel 4 coverage, which while excellent, is also only possible because of the agreement of Sky Sports and doesn’t directly add to the pot of broadcast revenue generated by Super League. If every game was televised by Channel 4 instead of Sky Sports right now, it would leave a £25m annual hole – I’m not sure there’s evidence to suggest the additional exposure generated by the terrestrial platform would plug such a significant gap. The revenue-generating broadcast rights deal is what separates rugby league from other (relatively) minor sports in this country, who instead have to give away their rights for free simply for the exposure.

I’ve speculated before that there will no doubt be some politics going on in the context of ongoing broadcast negotiations. Sky Sports clearly want to get the rights for the best price they can, that’s their business.

People say they don’t care – but even if they didn’t, does that even matter as long as they keep investing the money that has essentially propped up the full-time version of rugby league in the entirety of the Super League era?

Here are some errors flagged up:

Catalan Tigers sounds like Castleford’s attempts to appease IMG.

Not so much an error, but using biffs and hits that would these days result in lengthy bans?

A photo of now-departed Leeds hooker Kruise Leeming was used to promote their televised clash with Huddersfield at the weekend.

But as Jon Williamson said on Twitter: “Not great but without Sky there is no full time rugby league. Be careful what you wish for.”

Clickbait headlines of the month

Considering there are only 14 fully professional games of rugby league worldwide each week, the number of pundits, podcasts and content creators kicking about is quite remarkable.

It’s a shame that there isn’t more rugby league going on for them to get their teeth in to.

Unfortunately, one consequence of that is that there’s a hunger for any little quote that is out there.

And that takes us to podcasts. There are a lot of different podcasts, all with pundits and interviewees offering insight and their thoughts on things.

It’s become relatively commonplace now in online publishing to use such output as the basis for stories.

The problems start when you take a quote and put it completely out of context in a written article, which changes the meaning of what was said.

Couple that with a headline designed to get clicks, you hit a problem, as League Express found with former Man of Steel Luke Gale earlier this week.

The problem with publishing now is that there’s a desperate race to the bottom in the chase for clicks, ergo revenue.

If writing 26 articles about one game is the future, then we’re all f*cked.

Just how much attention can you be paying to a game if you’re writing and publishing six articles during it?

Only those serious about it will know.

Speaking of which, contender for headline of the month: “Another Super League player is available”. Almost the pure definition of clickbait.

Another: “Daryl Powell makes surprise decision on star player following NRL rumours”

Now, Thomas Mikaele isn’t a bad player, but describing picking him as a ‘surprise’ is a bit of a stretch. This headline was clearly designed to confuse people with George Williams, despite the fact Powell had made it plainly clear that Mikaele would be playing against Hull and it would be his last game before departing to NRL.

Big news from Sky Sports following the Women’s Super League launch.

“Women’s Super League launch: Leading contenders target title”

At least somebody is. (PS. Seriously though, fair play for the live coverage being provided by Sky of the women’s game).

Official Super League coverage spread too thinly?

What slightly frustrated me over the weekend was in spite of the excellent Easter weekend for Super League, there was only two videos present on the Sky Sports rugby league twitter feed on Saturday – a bit of a scrap at Leigh v Salford and then THAT Gil Dudson punch on Tom Johnstone. The Dudson incident ended up on the Sky Sports main feed. The Matt Dufty try was shared on the official Super League feed. Online coverage seems so fractured.

Part of me wonders whether there are simply now too many channels for rugby league in the official sense given the size of it and the challenges it faces – would efforts be better placed in to fewer channels but with bigger numbers and greater coverage, rather than official Super League, Sky Sports RL, the RFL, even England RL and others trying to share the same content?

The Leopards have been causing a fuss all season, and it’s working for them as they boasted a new Super League record crowd against Wigan recently. The dress code in hospitality at Leigh Sports Village now insists on leopard-print being worn, and they were even greeted by some leopard-print decoration in their away directors’ box at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Unfortunately, their cameraman irked a few home fans in hospitality – he had stationed himself in the middle of a bank of seats, alongside coach Adrian Lam and his staff, leading to complaints from behind. Mid way through the first half, a steward had to come up and insist the cameraman sat down so he wasn’t blocking the view of those behind – so if you saw some jolts in the post-match footage, you know why.

Error reporting

There was a little World War II fake news coming in after the Keighley and Bradford debut last month, of which we were guilty of too. Thanks to Keighley historian John Pitchford for reaching out.

That was because the official statistician of the RFL had unfortunately supplied incorrect information relating to the game in their excellent weekly briefing, designed to assist media and broadcasters.

Multiple sources therefore reported that it was Keighley’s first win over Bradford since 1945. The correct information is below:

Due to an error in last week’s edition, Keighley were shown as being without a win against Bradford since a 5-0 Challenge Cup semi-final (first leg) home game on 14 April, 1945.

In fact, prior to Sunday’s 34-6 success at Cougar Park (which ended a seven game losing streak), Keighley’s last victory against their local rivals was a 3-2 away league win on 16 November, 1975.

Prior to Sunday’s memorable triumph (which ended a ten game losing streak), Keighley’s last home victory against Bradford was a 15-9 league win on 2 September, 1968.

England forward Mike McMeeken would be forgiven for thinking people would know how to spell his name after making more than 200 first-grade appearances.

Unfortunately, he was misspelt twice recently – once in the headline of PA’s report of Catalans’ win over Castleford (McKeeken) and then again by his former club Castleford in their squad announcement for the following game (McMeekin).

The last tackle

To prove mediawatch isn’t always about the negatives, how about this highlighting the impact of the women’s game.

The record crowd between Leeds and York managed to get a plug on the back page of The Guardian national newspaper on Monday, helped no doubt by this piece from rugby league correspondent Aaron Bower.

If we learnt anything from the World Cup, it’s that the women’s and wheelchair games could open doors that rugby league has previously found hard to prise.

Seen any media faux-pas? Drop us an inbox on Twitter @loverugbyleague or @jdgsport