Super League clubs set for TV money boost amid uncertainty
Clubs in English rugby league’s top-tier Super League will be reassured by the prospect of receiving the proceeds of the existing television rights deal through to June even though there are currently no matches being played.
Like leagues, competitions and series across the globe, the 2020 Super League season is presently suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, putting financial pressure on the 12 teams.
However, the next quarterly instalment of the contract with UK pay-TV operator Sky, covering April, May and June, is thought to be assured, according to the UK’s Sun newspaper.
Sky’s five-year rights deal, worth £200 million ($239 million), and regarded as the lifeblood of the domestic sport, runs until the end of the 2021 season.
Despite the apparently guaranteed TV money, Super League clubs still face financial challenges with fixtures unlikely before June.
In an interview with Sky Sports, the league’s chief executive Robert Elstone said: “We need support from our government… and if we can get that… and if we can retain the support from our key partners, I think there is a confidence that we can get through this intact and come out the other end in reasonable shape.”
When the league does resume, a restructuring of the calendar will be necessary, with the Magic Weekend, involving all 12 clubs, which was scheduled to take place at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on 23 and 24 May, set to be postponed or cancelled, and a likely delay to the Grand Final, which was due to be held at Old Trafford in Manchester on 10 October.
The hiatus comes at a challenging time for Super League, which is preparing for negotiations on a new TV rights deal for 2022 onwards, but Elstone insisted that the priority at present is to ensure that this season can be completed, and the current contract respect.
He told the Sun: "Sky are looking at the implications of this on their business in the here and now, so it would be crazy to think we'll be talking in earnest in the very near future. Sky know there are some real material limitations in what we can and can't do right now. Right now we're unable to do anything in terms of meaningful content.
"While we have a close relationship we have to respect that Sky are looking at what this means for them. Our intention is to ensure we honour that Sky contract and fulfil our obligations, it's the most important thing we can do."