Why Toulouse are paying for away travel costs in Super League

James Gordon
Toulouse fund away travel costs

Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com

Super League newcomers Toulouse are funding the away travel costs of all their opponents coming to France this season.

The arrangement, likely to continue for the forseeable, highlights the tightened purse strings across the top flight.

But it also represents a growing reality regarding the involvement of teams from across the Channel.

There have been concerns raised about the lack of broadcast and commercial deals coming from France.

Both Catalans and Toulouse receive central funding, which is largely drawn from the Sky Sports TV revenues in the UK.

Catalans are in their 17th season in Super League, and even the presence of a second club in Toulouse hasn’t encouraged any broadcasters to come forward.

Instead, the Dragons are forced to fund the production of their games to get TV exposure.

That is something that Toulouse couldn’t do, which meant their famous win over St Helens last week was not seen on TV.

Toulouse chief executive Cedric Garcia said: “The conditions to enter Super League in 2022 for us were to fund the away teams and match officials’ trips and we accepted them.

“I do not want to make a big story about it. We would hope to strike a better deal for next year but we first need to stay there.”

Potential for change?

With the World Cup due to be held in France in 2025, there is hope of some interest from broadcasters.

Super League’s chief commercial officer, Rhodri Jones, said: “The Dragons have this year provided a TV coverage solution in France. That’s been done by the Dragons with some help from us.

“We’ve got to keep knocking on the door. The other thing that will hopefully be helpful for us is the 2025 World Cup in France.

“I don’t think they can afford not to cover the sport when there’s a World Cup on their home soil.”

The question of the agreement was put to Super League chairman Ken Davy at a media briefing.

When asked if it was fair or sustainable, Davy said: “That’s a question I can’t answer.

“But in terms of the Rugby League World Cup being held in France, is a tremendous feather in the cap of French rugby league and I would have thought they would have a real opportunity to build support for the game.

“The result that Toulouse had against St Helens has made everyone sit up and take note and I would hope its impact in France will increase the possibility of a television deal.”

The France question

An interview with Leigh owner Derek Beaumont caused controversy earlier this week.

He raised points about how a sixth of the central funding for Super League is going to France, with no TV deal or sponsorship in return.

The blackout for sponsors Betfred was mentioned, as well as the logistical costs impacting both sides.

But Catalans themselves have faced adversity in maintaining their participation in recent years.

And after their Challenge Cup triumph, were demanded to pay a bond to enter the Challenge Cup to make up for lost ticket sales.

Their successes on the field though have seen a new record set for a regular season Super League match.

Catalans faced Wigan in a historic encounter at the Nou Camp, home of FC Barcelona, in 2019.

In the context of rising living and travel costs, it could be that the European make-up of Super League is reviewed in coming years.

It remains to be seen how the proposed new strategic partners of rugby league will view French participation.

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