Why not televising the St Helens-Wigan derby is a daft call

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

When will common sense prevail in rugby league?

The derby between St Helens and Wigan on Friday evening will not be shown on television for the first time since 1995 – before the Super League era had even begun.

Sky Sports have decided to show Leeds-Hull KR at Emerald Headingley Stadium instead, with the fight for survival hotting up.

Every competitive match between St Helens and Wigan since January 1995 has been televised. The last one that wasn’t screened live was a Regal Trophy quarter-final, which Wigan won 24-22.

Why is the biggest game in the competition’s calendar not being shown to the world? Rugby league is constantly shooting itself in the foot, and this is just another bullet wound.

I just can’t get my head around the fact that the world will not get to see it live. St Helens are flying high at the top of the Super League table, while Wigan are going into the match on the back of five straight wins. It’s a mouth-watering match-up.

I’m not saying that Sky shouldn’t show Leeds-Hull KR either, but if you were deciding out of the two – it should be St Helens-Wigan that gets the green light. Why couldn’t Leeds-Hull KR have been on Thursday night instead of Hull-London?

Hull led 34-0 at half-time against relegation favourites London, and the game was already done and dusted by the half hour mark. The Broncos produced a second half fightback, but still went down to a 35-22 defeat.

Wigan-St Helens is the biggest derby in Super League and is hands down the biggest rivalry in the competition (sorry Hull FC and KR fans).

People who don’t even like rugby league watch the derby between St Helens and Wigan, purely because of the rivalry, passion and dedication on show.

Do we really need to watch Leeds playing Hull KR? We are in round 22 and there are still EIGHT – yes, EIGHT – games to be played of the regular season. No matter which way the game goes, it’s still very much up in the air about who will be relegated.

Saints coach Justin Holbrook was bang on the money in his pre-derby press conference about Sky Sports’ decision not to show the game for the first time in 24 years.

He said: “If there was two rounds to go then I’d probably agree with it.

“And it is back to the old days where you’ve got to come to the stadium to watch the game, so for the players hopefully it sells out.

“But not being on Sky – I can’t imagine football not showing Man City versus Man United over Burnley and Cardiff with eight games still to go.

“It is disappointing for the game but gives people more reason to come. That’s what we’ll focus on as a playing group, it being a great atmosphere here.”

Warriors coach Adrian Lam added: “When you’re promoting the game you always want to see top of the table stuff.”

There is a reason the derby has been televised for the previous 94 occasions. It’s what people want to see.

If I was a betting man, I would put big money on Sky getting more viewers on a St Helens-Wigan game rather than a Leeds-Hull KR match.

Sky subscribers – who aren’t big rugby league fans – flicking through the channels for something to watch on Friday night will probably swipe past Leeds-Hull KR whereas they might have been tempted to watch St Helens-Wigan because everyone knows the history and tradition of a St Helens-Wigan battle.

I’ll no doubt get plenty of criticism for this opinion column, but deep down people will know I’m right on this occasion. We want to show people the best product we have to offer, and the division’s biggest match-up isn’t televised. It’s bonkers!

The sooner we get the simple stuff right in rugby league, the better. Anyway, I’ll make sure to enjoy myself at the game!

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