Why the King’s Coronation weekend is a missed opportunity for Super League

James Gordon

Photo by James Heaton/News Images

Crowds are up in 2023 and a big part of that was the Rivals Round over the Easter weekend, which saw the six Super League games all played at different times.

But as the country gears up for a second successive Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate the King’s Coronation, there will once again be no Super League.

An opportunity was missed last weekend to stagger the fixtures as per Easter when the domestic game paused to accommodate the one-sided international between England and France.

MORE: Super League breaks attendance record with bumper Easter weekend crowds

This weekend Super League does return, but the schedule sees the usual Thursday night match and then all the other five games are being played on Friday night, including the televised clash in France between Catalans and St Helens.

It’s yet another example of Super League spurning the weekend – and making it awkward for the future generations to attend games – when really somebody should have the foresight to take advantage of these opportunities.

Rugby league as a sport could use Bank Holiday weekends to its advantage. It’s the only sport really whose season runs through them all – Easter, two in May (three this year) and then August.

Those potentially four rounds should be built up to be the big events of the year, with all the games from each round televised and spread across the weekend – including on the Monday.

Already I can hear complaints from coaches about turnaround time – but guess what, the way that things are going, the coaches are going to have to suck it up because without change (meaning more eyeballs and more commercial revenue), turnaround time will be the least of their worries.

They need to sacrifice that turnaround time for a schedule more befitting the vigours of the elite level sport they claim to want to be in.

It shouldn’t be this difficult.

We are in a situation now where you look back 15 years, and rugby league almost had a better broadcast arrangement then – with a Championship game live on Sky Sports on a Thursday, and Super League live on a Friday and Saturday night.

Only the addition of Channel 4 in the past 18 months has shown a forward step in that regard, and even the coverage of Catalans has gone backwards given the Dragons have not been able to fund broadcasting in France as they have done previously and Super League hasn’t been able to find a deal direct with a French broadcaster.

It will be interesting to see just how the broadcasting deal might be shaped for 2024 and beyond, and whether it will increase the number of weekly games.

The more games on TV, the more likely we are to see a spread of fixtures – rather than the quite ridiculous situation at the moment where a large percentage of Super League games go up against the Friday night televised fixture; surely damaging to viewing figures.

In the NRL, they have a free-to-air partnership that dictates televised games on Thursday and Friday nights, as well as Sunday afternoons. Their other broadcast partners then have deals to show games in other slots.

But this weekend, which will hopefully bring some nice spring weather, there’ll be no live Super League to watch post-10pm on Friday night, even if there are 10 games across Championship and League One on Saturday and Sunday. And that just screams missed opportunity.

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