There is no doubt that there is now more Rugby League on television than ever before, with the BBC showing the Challenge Cup, Sky showing the Super League (Super 8’s currently) and Premier Sports showing the NRL games, but what impact is it having on the general public and in particular the loyal fans?
There is no doubt that the Sky coverage has brought more regular viewing to the sport, and the recent announcement that the BBC has signed up to its Challenge Cup coverage until 2020 is great news.
My concern isn’t with the BBC and Premier Sports with great coverage in their chosen facets of the game, it is with Sky and their seemingly constant tinkering with time slots, and the figureheads who with their constant taglines and sound bites are stuck in the 1990’s.
But it’s not all bad, The Sky team are constantly bringing new innovations to the sport both on and off the field, which are improving the viewing experience for the public and bringing with them ‘celebrity fans’ who are openly seen praising the sport in an effort to open it up to new avenues of potential fans from all parts of the country.
This however brings me to my main problem. Sky now seems to be calling the shots, especially when it comes to televised matches.
We have had Friday night matches for some time now, and many clubs have embraced this, as it can help with fixtures when sharing grounds with other clubs and sports.
In more recent years Sky have tried firstly the Monday nights and more latterly the Thursday night games; now whilst this is great for the impartial supporter who can come home and sit down and watch a match on an evening, for the fans of the clubs involved in the games it is a different matter.
These fans have to look at the logistics of getting off work early just to get to a home match, let alone even try to get to an away match. This in turn means that Season Ticket Holders are not getting their money’s worth from their own clubs, and the players now find themselves walking out into less than half full stadia on a regular basis.
Then add to this to the merry go round of shuffling matches with very little notice when people have already sorted out their lives and shift patterns and we now find that the lifeblood of the sport, the paying public, in particular the Pass Holders are being sacrificed for the viewing figures.
For an example, I will use the news released on Tuesday that the Hull KR V Bradford game due in 12 days’ time on Sunday the 13th of September has been moved to Saturday the 12th September , is this a problem? Sky clearly don’t think it is.
It is a problem however, for people who have already committed themselves for that day, be it for work, or to spend with other family members or friends.
Some workers have to submit leave days with a minimum of a months’ notice and their availability and shifts are worked around the fixture lists as soon as they become available.
I know Sky have a job to do and by and large they do a great job, but they must start to appreciate that whilst they want to pick the best fixtures to televise, they must begin to understand that this chopping and changing of televised fixtures is ruining many loyal fans experience of the game and whilst the clubs are no doubt being reimbursed for the drop in attendance caused by these changes, it is the loyal fans who are losing out. These are the ones the game needs to keep interested, as without them our great sport will surely begin to fade and die.