Column: Five games on one night? Super League’s stupid scheduling

I’m not really interested in arguing about which game Sky Sports should be broadcasting on Friday night.

Wigan and St Helens are outraged their game isn’t been shown on TV. I can also relate to Sky’s thinking that Leeds and Hull Kingston Rovers is a more attractive proposition for a neutral audience.

For what it’s worth, a sample of 1,345 people voted in support of Sky’s decision. I imagine if the same sample was asked whether they’d rather watch the derby or Hull FC v London, they’d have gone for the former.

But anyway.

There is a far bigger issue which seems to have been ignored amid all of this.

That’s the fact there are five Super League games all taking place at the same time on Friday evening.

Yes. You read that right. Of the competition’s six games this weekend, five are all taking place at the same time and clashing with one of just two games that are being shown this weekend.

Given Super League’s massive emphasis on raising its profile ahead of the upcoming broadcast deal, this appears stupid.

It’s going to limit the amount of coverage the sport gets in the national papers over the weekend. The sport will still get its regular Saturday column inches but there will be no coverage in either the Sunday or Monday papers as there are no games the previous evening to report on.

You’d have to imagine Sky will hardly be impressed with the fact that thousands of their rugby league audience will be attending the other games taking place. It’s certainly not going to have a positive effect on their viewing figures.

Throw in the fact it will probably cost a bit of coverage on the radio and then the fact more games on one night means less floating fans to spread around the games, it becomes a nonsensical decision.

It’s a scheduling issue, one that’s easily avoidable but highly damaging.

Clubs will argue that they schedule their games to ensure longer turnarounds. It’s important to protect players and their fitness.

But on Friday, James Maloney, David Klemmer, Daniel Saifiti, Mitch Pearce and Tim Glasby all played in the NRL, two days after playing in the State of Origin decider. It would be easier to sympathise with clubs on that front had they not spent years putting players through the rigours of the Easter schedule because of the financial rewards.

While we’re talking about the NRL, their fixture scheduling is consistent. There is one game on Friday, two on Thursday, three on Saturday followed by two on Sunday. Everyone knows the crack and gets on with it. Super League should take a leaf out of their book.

In Super League, the TV games on Thursday and Friday should be standalone fixtures. Catalans home games could provide a third TV game on alternate weeks then the rest should be played on a Sunday. Maybe if Les Dracs are away, a game could be played on a Saturday. Sky has shown some games on Saturday this year when Catalans have been away.

The sport now finds itself in a position where it will be anonymous in the sporting stratosphere for days. It hardly falls under the remit of exposing the sport to new eyes, does it?

You’d hope that Championship and League 1 clubs would benefit from the lack of Super League games on Sunday. Though, to my knowledge, not one has done a promotion to try and entice Super League supporters with a free Sunday on their hands down to their game. That’s another own goal and another missed opportunity too.

While the eyes of the nation won’t be on St Helens and Wigan tonight, there will be plenty of attention on the size of the crowd. The two clubs claim it is the biggest derby of them all, so you’d hope it would sell out. It didn’t in round one, though that was put down to the fact it was on TV.

There are no excuses this time.