Is more games on TV the way to grow?

I’m sorry to say I missed the World Club Challenge at the weekend, well missed watching it live anyway, as I was away for a few days in the North East.

I went to a pub to watch the Leicester-Manchester City game in the hope that when the football finished, they would switch to watch Super League Champions St Helens go toe-to-toe with NRL Premiers Sydney Roosters.

Ironically, the television in the corner was showing the Wales-France game in the 15-a-side code so surely there must be some rugby fans in the house?

Well to cut a long story short, when the football finished they turned off the TV and my chances of watching the World Club Challenge were over.

Now I would bet there wasn’t one person in that pub who even knew there was one of the biggest rugby league games of the season on that night, this in a bar only about 10 miles from where we’ll all be heading in 12 weeks time for Magic Weekend.

To be fair this was Boldon not Newcastle, no doubt there would be a sports bar in the Toon showing the game (I hope so anyway) but even there it would probably play second fiddle to the golf from Mexico?

Attendances in Super League are another cause for concern. Credit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

Sunday, whilst longing to be at the DW Stadium to watch Wigan play Hull FC, I settled down like millions of others to watch England play Ireland in front of 81,000 at Twickenham.

It’s a fixture they could probably have sold out three or four times over.

Don’t get me wrong, England played very well, but there wasn’t anything exciting to watch in 80 minutes, and the clock didn’t stop for a scrum.

I’m not here to have a pop at union, I’m probably more in envy of how they manage to promote the sport to a vast audience, but when it comes to the product on the field there is no comparison, which is probably even more frustrating.

When I was in Newcastle on Friday, every pub I went in advertised the Six Nations.

I wonder if it’ll be the same next year when St James’ Park plays host to England’s opening game in the Rugby League World Cup?

St James’ Park will host the opening game of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. Credit: News Images

Obviously the Six Nations is on terrestrial TV and this is probably key.

Surely the Saints-Roosters game should have been made available to all on free-to-air TV, not just those with Sky!?

Like with the England Rugby League team, we need to show more matches on terrestrial TV to grow the sport in my opinion.

Our club game here is almost non-existent down south, they get to watch the odd Challenge Cup game but not enough to attract new people to the sport.

Instead of offering games like the World Club Challenge to the highest bidder, we should surely be paying BBC or ITV to show the game on one of their main channels.

Saturday might have been a tough sell given the schedule, but surely we could have got the game in on Friday night?

Terrestrial TV is key to the future of our sport, as is growing the International game.

Both boxes will be ticked when the Kangaroos come over at the end of the season and we also have the Challenge Cup in there too, but it’s not enough at the moment.

Friday night we saw three matches kick-off at the same time, the live derby between Castleford and Wakefield plus Warrington-Toronto and Hull KR-Huddersfield.

This doesn’t happen in football, the live games should stand alone gaining the sports’ full attention.

We should be spreading the games out over a full Super League weekend, as they do in the NRL Thursday, Friday, two Saturday and three on Sunday.

I admit Thursday games aren’t popular but viewing figures are good, due to travel on school nights though we should maybe limit these to local derbies or away fixtures involving Catalans or Toronto?

Catalans are still hoping to strike a TV deal to broadcast their 2020 home games. Credit: Craig Milner/News Images

The two Sunday games would be at 1pm and 5.30pm to not clash with the Championship fixtures that afternoon.

TV coverage could be split between the broadcasters with at least one game a week offered free-to-air.

This surely could get our great game the exposure it deserves and maybe lead to us catching up with the NRL in the long run ending the constant flow of our best players down under.

Even if six live games is too many, we could still offer one of the games to the terrestrial channels?

If Toronto and Catalans both sort out TV deals for their home games there could be four live games some weekends which is great, but how good would it be if we could watch all six?

It’s crucial that all Wolfpack games are shown live in North America, as with Catalans in France.

I do worry about crowds dropping if all games were on TV, but surely increasing the profile of the game would open it up to a new audience?

Many of this new audience would then attend games too, so it’s a no lose scenario!

I would love to hear your thoughts about increasing the profile of our game, because our players should be superstars.

Unfortunately, as it stands at the moment, when a Super League player steps outside of the M62 corridor, they don’t even get recognised.

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