Salford Red Devils head coach Paul Rowley believes the changes being made to broadcast rights for the competition can only be a positive in the long run, but admits the decrease in value of Sky Sports’ Super League deal is a worry.
It was confirmed yesterday that despite lowering their bid for the rights to circa £20 million, Sky had been chosen as the preferred broadcaster for the British game’s top division.
Seeing off competition from other broadcasters including DAZN and TNT Sports, Sky’s new deal – which will have the i’s dotted and t’s crossed over the next 30 days – will run for three years until the end of the 2026 season.
The major news from the new deal though is that every Super League game is set to be televised, meaning every game will have a video referee in place. That’s the piece of information Rowley wanted to focus on.
Paul Rowley excited about new Super League TV deal
Red Devils chief Rowley told Love Rugby League: “I’m not sure on the numbers, and I haven’t read the news on it, but I’m aware that every game is going to have a video ref which interests me. It should be in already, so it’s not long before time.
“Every game is also going to be televised in some way, shape or form which is a good thing because I’m a rugby fan and I can get to watch more of it.”
The six Super League games being broadcast each week won’t all be hosted by Sky. It’s expected that the RFL’s OurLeague platform will take on some of the matches after successful trial runs in 2023, with more games believed to be heading to free-to-air TV following the 10 games shown this year by Channel4.
Concerns have been raised about the schedule of games needing to change to facilitate the move towards each game being televised, and accordingly attendances at games dropping. Rowley though doesn’t believe any changes will cause any great issue.
He continued: “It does already, it depends what day you play. If we’re going to be playing Hull FC away on a Friday night and everyone is working here in Salford then they’ll probably watch it on the TV.
“I don’t think it’ll affect attendances too much though because if they were going, they’re probably still going, and if they weren’t then this just gives them an option not to go but not miss the game.
“Time will tell on that one, but the most money generated into our game is through Sky TV, or television broadcast deals, so that’s what we need to make sure we facilitate. That’s where the money is, it’s simple.”
Salford boss on reduced funding from Sky Sports
On the flip side to the positive news surrounding the introduction of video referees at every game is the negative of the reduced value of the deal.
Sky’s first-ever Super League broadcast deal was worth £87 million. The two-year contract penned back in 2021, to run until the end of the current season, was worth just £25 million. And now, the new deal has taken another £5 million cut.
Red Devils chief Rowley conceded it’s a worry, but will leave those at the top of the tree in the game to sort the financial issues out.
The 48-year-old said: “I think that’s for the power brokers to be honest.
“As a club without a benefactor, it probably affects us more than others because we’ve not got someone who’s just going to tip that extra bit in.
“The money side of it isn’t for me, because if I start worrying about that and who’s funding who, my head will be upside down. I just want to concentrate on my job.”