Super League's newfound poverty

Super League's TV deal is a huge reality check.

Welcome to the latest edition of SSWOS, the Sick, Sad World of Sports, where sports is the mechanism by which we learn about the depths of shithousery and assholery and dipshittery of the human soul.

I hope you find it fun or informative but not both. If you want more of this particular species of brain worms, follow me @scksadwos.

I also write exclusively about rugby league on pythagonrl.com and @pythagonrl.



Super League’s TV deal

I think it's kind of funny and I think it’s kind of sad watching the English Super League (the rugby league comp, not the soccer one) circle the drain.

Longtime broadcast partner Sky has slashed their broadcast deal by up to 25%, which wasn’t exactly huge to begin with, and seems to only be renewing our of a sense of habit, rather than the need for rugby league content. This spells disaster for the game, which has barely survived coronavirus and will struggle to handle a major reduction in one of its main revenue streams.

The potential ramifications of this are extremely exciting to the impartial observer, more interested in watching the nature of the response than being concerned with the outcome itself.1 The Super League and the RFL are going re-merge, just three years after separating. Walking back such a momentous decision after such a short period indicates just how well thought out it was and hints that personality clashes were almost certainly a bigger driver than any strategic vision.

The structure of the competition is under serious consideration, principally in the context of just how small is the number of clubs can they get away with paying without fundamentally rending the sport asunder. Finally, we might get an answer to the question of how many professional rugby league clubs can be supported by a patch of land roughly the size of Slovenia.

The most widely talked about model is two “professional” leagues of ten teams each. The only problem is that there are currently 36 clubs in the RFL “professional” pyramid, so what happens to the other sixteen teams? Ostensibly, the central funding, which will be measured in the paltry hundreds of thousands of pounds per club and not millions, will be more equal between the two leagues with the ladder effectively kicked out to the next tier down. I don’t think this is as terrible as it sounds, as the value of promotion and relegation is grossly overstated in English rugby league, and quite frankly having borderline amateur clubs in the same system at St Helens and Leeds doesn’t scan.

This could be a crisisitunity for the right kind of adminstrators. It should go without saying that these are not the kind of men atop the Super League and RFL hierarchies. Two leagues of ten teams each, playing each other twice, would mean a 18 week season. Instead of pointless regurgitations of the same fixtures, this would create room for internationals, innovative rep fixtures and give the Challenge Cup some space to breathe. It would mean putting a column under the sport of rugby league that isn’t directly dependent on its top clubs.

Naturally, that won’t happen. A ten team league will absolutely play each fixture three times and the powers that be will wonder why no one wants to come to the umpteenth iteration of Salford against Huddersfield. Moreover, even with Catalans in the preliminary final and Toulouse likely to gain promotion this year, the same people will wonder why the French aren’t falling over themselves to buy the rights.

They’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing and send out the occassional distress flare (“save us, Hearns!”) before it’ll all disappear from view because, fundamentally, people don’t care about the poor and these poor people can’t save themselves.

The grace, the beauty of sports


Share

Thanks for reading.

1

To borrow an analogy from the storied field of animal cruelty, it’s not unlike focussing the sun’s power through a magnifying glass on to a bug to see what it does.