Is there a timeslot more suited to rugby league than a Sunday afternoon?
It is, in many ways, the traditional time for watching our favourite sport. We head to the game, have a couple of beers and, for a few hours at least, it takes away the pain for so many that the weekend is almost over!
Mercifully, there is still plenty of action taking place on a Sunday all across the country – as this week’s fixtures will testify to. But there is an omission coming up over the next few weeks, and a notable one at that: no Super League games whatsoever.
And it isn’t just this weekend. Next week also sees no Sunday games, and even before Magic Weekend there are a number of other Sundays where Super League is, alas, nowhere to be seen.
Now, before the point of short turnarounds is mentioned as a decrease in the amount of Sunday fixtures – and it is a perfectly valid one – the fact FIVE of the six fixtures this week are played on Friday night makes that point somewhat moot. Next week’s Thursday game sees Castleford play Leeds, which understandably rules their games against Warrington and Salford respectively out of being played this Sunday.
You can scratch the TV game between Wigan and Widnes off the list too, but there’s still two other matches which could have been moved to Sunday.
Now, when clubs choose to play their home games is their prerogative and is done so with plenty of well-thought reasoning in mind, I’m sure. But in the bigger picture, for rugby league’s profile in the spotlight: how damaging are Sundays with no Super League?
Surely Sky Sports aren’t completely over the moon that while Wigan are playing Widnes on Friday night, fans of Leeds, St Helens, Warrington, Castleford and more won’t be boosting their viewing figures, they’ll be watching their own teams play instead. One or two games clashing is fair enough – but five? That’s a big blow for Sky and the RFL’s figures.
Rugby league fans take a keen interest in how much newspaper coverage the sport gets too – and rightly so. Traditionally, national papers will publish match reports whenever they can – so be ready to notice the big gap in the sport’s promotion on a Monday morning this coming week, when there’s been no Super League to report on. A game like Huddersfield v Wakefield would have had the whole of the national media covering it – but in reality, not many are going to be at that game now it’s on Friday. In essence, it gets lost in the shuffle. So clubs get less coverage, and in turn, the sport gets less of it too.
For a sport that craves column inches, it’s a pretty worrying trend that at least four Sundays on the run to Magic Weekend feature no Super League whatsoever. It’s a day less for the sport to get the coverage it so badly needs. Who knows, maybe the odd club here and there will spot a gap in the market after this weekend if they don’t have a short turnaround the following week – because there is definitely an opportunity to be exploited.
Thankfully, there is an alternative for fans – they can go take in a Championship or League 1 game in their local area. But for the sport’s wider profile, you have to wonder just how damaging Sundays without rugby league will become if it transitions into the norm rather than an anomaly.