The Challenge Cup draw is this Thursday at 5pm and at last we will really have something to look forward to. I believe the plan is that the first two rounds are drawn together so that allows us to look another week ahead from a planning perspective.
Unless there is a massive change in Government policy it looks almost certain that those games will be played behind closed doors. We have signed up to the RFL’s own streaming service on Ourleague using their production team so our fans can at least see a game on their internet devices.
The prices are £4.99 for an early bird ticket and £10 for a purchase on the day of the game. Based on the experience of the English Football League clubs we don’t expect to get anywhere close to match day income, but we are hopefully there will be a little surplus after production costs.
We may also get the opportunity to sell some sponsorship packages for the pre-match and half time adverts so if we can get decent audience figures this may be attractive to businesses out there.
At the moment the Championship and League One clubs are pretty much in the dark as to whether Sky Sports have retained the rights to broadcast for their new deal in 2022 and beyond so this streaming service may well be the future. I honestly believe that there is a really good product to sell below Super League and if it were marketed well could command a decent sized audience. Sunday evening seems a slot worth exploiting, a bit like Channel 4 did for the NFL a few years ago. The likes of Bradford v Widnes or Halifax v Featherstone or Barrow v Workington has a certain appeal that perhaps can’t be matched by Super League.
I quite liked the Rugby League Raw of old and if we can also get behind the scenes there could be a massive opportunity for the semi-professional clubs. The thing with rugby league is that you rarely see a bad game. Personally, I could be as entertained watching a couple of local amateur clubs on a Saturday afternoon as I would be watching State of Origin, each has a unique appeal.
Rumours of the money flowing down from Super League to the Championship clubs being either greatly reduced or non-existent abound and the future looks to be testing for some clubs. However, we can’t afford to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to market our product well, work on increasing attendances and our digital footprint which in turn makes us more attractive to a broadcaster. We also need to be inventive with increasing our income streams and not be over-reliant on central distributions. That said, Super League need a strong structure beneath them, or the supply of quality players will dry up if the standard isn’t there. The likes of Zac Hardaker, Chris Hill, Alex Walmsley and Joe Bullock have all made Super League after following a route through the Championship. Sometimes, when we are considering the financing of the game, we need to think big picture rather than the yearly budgets of 12 clubs.