Championship deserves more TV exposure

GARETH WALKER, the Championship correspondent of League Express, makes a plea for more TV coverage of the competition.

THE recent televised Challenge Cup tie between Featherstone and Halifax provoked a common question – why isn’t Championship Rugby League on television regularly again?
The straight-forward answer is that Sky hold the rights to the competition and choose not to screen it on a weekly basis.
They may also point to the fact that they air the Summer Bash (terrific) and feature Championship sides in their coverage of the Qualifiers, which is also welcome.
But when you see the kind of entertainment served up by Fev and Fax, and compare it to some of the other sports output on that platform, you wonder why it isn’t on every week.
For two years we had that courtesy of Premier Sports, who grew into their broadcasting of the competition and by the end had assembled a team that widely appreciated by clubs and supporters.
Thursday night rugby league has it problems – we all know that and hear enough about it in Super League, some of it justifiably so.
But this was regular television exposure that provided players with a bigger stage to showcase their talent on (and given their sacrifices in most cases that is richly deserved), as well as providing greater exposure for clubs and their sponsors.
Both coaches in the Fev-Fax game certainly feel that the competition deserves a wider audience that it currently gets.
Asked if the Championship should be on TV more regularly, Fax’s Richard Marshall responded: “I’d love it to be – I think it’d be great.
“Obviously there’s an impact on crowd figures but in terms of sponsorship, exposure and levels of competition, it’d be great
“This one was on Sky and was an evening game.
“All the players were excited about that, and if we could make that a regular feature it would be fantastic.”
Rovers’ boss Jon Sharp agreed.
He said: “Featherstone people like to look on the dark side of most things and were umming and arring about the television cameras being here.
“But we flipped it on its head and said it would be a real positive thing, especially if we could play as well as we can.”
And both sides certainly emerged from last week’s game with considerable credit, much of it from people who would never otherwise have seen them play.
So, to the Sky problem.
If they are not in a position to screen the Championship regularly then perhaps they could sell the rights onto another company.
Chris Irvine, the Rugby League correspondent for The Times, tweeted that this is the case with Speedway, for which Sky holds the rights but BT pay to screen.
That could be one option, although it obviously needs a willing media partner to come forward and start discussions.
Just show them a recording of Thursday’s Featherstone-Halifax game if they need any persuading.

Gareth Walker’s Championship Focus column appears every Monday in League Express.