Brian Carney delivers Super League Las Vegas verdict with long-term planning emphasised

Drew Darbyshire
Brian Carney Super League Las Vegas Alamy

Super League will head to Las Vegas in 2025

Sky Sports presenter Brian Carney believes the Las Vegas adventure could be ‘transformational’ for Super League: but has stressed that the British game must make a strategic plan for the future to go alongside it.

It was confirmed on Tuesday morning that Super League would be heading to Las Vegas in 2025, with Wigan Warriors taking on Warrington Wolves at the Allegiant Stadium on March 1.

The Super League fixture will be played prior to Canberra Raiders’ NRL clash with New Zealand Warriors, whilst England will face Australia in a women’s international Test match. NRL kings Penrith Panthers will face Cronulla Sharks in the final game of the day.

Speaking to Love Rugby League at the Las Vegas launch in Manchester on Tuesday morning, Carney delivered his verdict on Super League’s newest venture.

When asked about how much of a boost it could be to Super League, Carney replied: “Well it can be. If we make the most of this as a sport, this could be a huge lift.

“We’ve got to understand what we want to be as a sport, how we want to be perceived on the field and off the field. In ’96 and ’97, I think we had a clear idea of what we wanted to be but that’s gone and we’ve drifted away from that.

“If this is part of a reset, this could be a transformational moment for the sport.

“The game has got to fundamentally understand how it wants to be seen by other sports and drive that message home. My vision for the game would tie into days like this and events like next March.”

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More than 40,000 people attended the NRL’s inaugural double-header at the Allegiant Stadium this year, and that number is tipped to be much higher in 2025 given Super League’s involvement as well as the women’s Test match.

Asked what would make Super League’s Las Vegas venture a success, Carney told Love Rugby League: “Numbers would play a huge part, maximising the fact that we now have a (scheduled) game in Vegas between now and next March.

“We are now showing as a sport we’re willing to be different and think outside the box, particularly the two clubs that decided to do that. That’s an important point to make, this doesn’t happen without those two clubs and it particularly doesn’t happen without Kris Radlinski (Wigan chief executive).

“This is probably not the way it should be done, you’d feel far more confident if essentially the decision was made with a strategic plan. So while I’m hugely enthusiastic and supportive of it, it’s been done essentially the wrong way around and that’s something we have to address.”

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It is the first time Super League will be played in Las Vegas, but it’s not the first time Super League has entered new territory, with games previously being played in Barcelona, Wollongong, Millwall and Leicester to name just a few.

But Carney insists that a long-term plan for Super League is needed to showcase what they have to offer to a wider audience on a global scale rather than it being a one-off occasion.

Wigan chief executive Kris Radlinski, who spearheaded behind the Super League’s Las Vegas operation, has openly spoken about his desire for the new venture to be opened up across the competition.

“In 2009 I was in Barcelona with Warrington and we played at the old Olympic stadium,” Carney continued. “It’s got to be part of a bigger plan.

“This is in no way a criticism of the clubs or the decision to go to Vegas, but it’s piecemeal at the moment.

“We need a reset. I was promised a reimagining of rugby league, I haven’t seen that, so people need sit down and have a think about what we are as a sport, how we want to portray ourselves, how we want to sell ourselves to our existing fans, our latent fans and our new fans: be clear on that. This would tie into my vision for the sport which is putting themselves on glamorous, entertaining stages with the likes of the UFC and boxing where we have events.”

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