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Super League set for new broadcasters?

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The sport of rugby league in this country is at a fascinating point with the futures of Wigan Warriors, Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves, the rest of the big teams and all the way down to League One is in the hands of IMG.

They are set to impact every aspect of the sport including TV coverage of the sport in this country. Yes, Sky Sports are the lead broadcasters and have agreed a new £20 million deal to show the sport from 2024-26.

They will also show every fixture next season and beyond but many have questioned what this means for Channel 4 coverage.

RL Commercial confirmed that they have the right to find a free to air deal to help grow the sport but a cryptic message from Helen Skelton could suggest that Channel 4’s involvement in the sport could be coming to an end.

You have to question where free to air opportunities feature alongside the development of an OTT – essentially a streaming service – by IMG.

It does seem that there will be a new broadcaster involved in the sport alongside this OTT but IMG are certainly taking steps to change the sport.

They have also introduced their grading criteria and on this RFL CEO Tony Sutton called on clubs to be transparent about gradings: “One thing that has been a very positive development is the creation of a data dashboard, which all clubs have been able to access to view their data and what that means in terms of scoring.

“Clearly that will now be updated following these announcements but the next development of that dashboard will be to enable them to use it as a modelling tool so they can adjust their own scores, adjust outcomes and inputs to see where they might for example place resources.

“Of course as you mentioned clubs have got their own level of detail and therefore can choose whether or not to publish and I think my own view is that that’s very positive for them if they do because I believe in transparency in the process.

“I think the potential for the next step is whether or not we provide all clubs data on that dashboard for clubs to review where the gaps are as well but as with any major change like this, we will do a pretty thorough review of what went well, what didn’t go so well, what we can learn from it, for ourselves as well as for clubs, we will do that in conjunction with clubs.

“I would suspect that we will do that openly at the next council meeting or certainly an all club together meeting so that we can learn from what we need to make better for all of us.

“I think that question as to whether or not those become openly very public or whether those are club decisions from their own data will be asked in that review process because we also believe that transparency is a key element of this.”

He called on focus on Grade A clubs: “I think that this really shows clubs what they need to do to be able to reach the higher level.

“It has been outlined about London very eloquently and I think that the number of Grade A clubs shows that how well the top clubs can perform and that along with the grading scoring model can really show a roadmap of how to get to be a top Grade A club.

“I think the fact that there’s seven, which is probably a little more than I thought when we started this a year to 18 months ago and started doing some initial modelling, is a very positive outcome and I think the ability to see a roadmap towards that is a positive development for all that want to follow it.”

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