The Sky’s The Limit

SKY’s monopoly over Rugby League in this country has been made apparent by their decision to block talks between the Rugby Football League and Eurosport regarding the broadcast of live National League games throughout the season, which starts on April 6th.

SKY were apparently fearful of losing the National League finals day and the Northern Rail Cup Final, undoubtedly the two biggest games outside of the top flight. But if they are that fearful, surely it is time for them to do something about broadcasting the lower leagues. Especially if they are going to continue to hold such a tight grip over coverage that even the sports governing body can’t give it away.

Any coverage is great coverage. Whether that be a highlights package or a live broadcast. National Leagues 1 and 2 get no coverage whatsoever (something we’re trying to change here at, and it was great news to hear the RFL doing something about this. Although a few fans were a bit weary of the proposed Thursday night games on Eurosport, the long term positives far outweighed the negatives of having to perhaps travel to Whitehaven on a weekday night!

But that has all now been thrown out the window. So it’s time for SKY to act. Time for them to show that their ridiculous grip on the greatest game wont prevent it from increasing its profile. They have lost the NRL coverage for the 2007 season, and surely that means it is perfect sense for them to do a straight swap.Would it kill SKY to show highlights of National League 1 per week, even perhaps during their Boots n All programme? Is it too much to ask for NL1 to have its own show, with NL2 highlights incorporated in to it? Hell, why not ask for a live game every week? A Thursday night is fairly empty in regards to Football coverage, so what are the broadcasters losing out on by showing this?

Am I living in a dream world? Maybe so. But if SKY has the audacity to block any plans of the governing body to try and increase the profile of the National Leagues, then they have to give the fans good reason as to why they’ve done this. And a highlights package is the absolute minimum they should offer.

I wonder how many more SKY dishes would be sold should Dublin get a place in Super League come the franchise system that is proposed for 2009 onwards. As much as it would be great to see Rugby League developed in Ireland, perhaps it would make greater sense for the Dubliners to follow the same route as Celtic Crusaders and London Skolars. It’d be a huge shame if a traditional heartland club lost out to a brand new franchise. I’m sure not many fans would argue if Celtic got their through their own right (by winning the NL1 Grand Final). Compare that to the mixed response that Catalans have had in their brief spell in the top flight today.

Staying with an Irish theme, it’s a great shame to hear of the retirement of Brian Carney. He leaves the sport at the very top of the game, having earned the accolade of best winger in the NRL last season. He certainly flew the flag for the northern hemisphere down under in 2006, and I’m sure the Gold Coast Titans were relishing seeing the Great Britain international don their jersey in their debut season. However it’s not to be, and Carney’s decision has to be respected – as does his mature decision to maintain contractual obligations to the NRL’s newest club.

Looking ahead to the weekend’s action… the Rhinos host the Giants in a joint testimonial for Paul Reilly and Keith Senior, two great servants to their clubs and Rugby League as a whole. It seems that all the squads are fairly settled now, and fans are no doubt itching for the season to get underway once again. Don’t forget to get your tickets for the World Club Challenge too.

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