It only seems like a blink of an eyelid since Sean O’Loughlin was raising the Super League Trophy at Old Trafford, but the start of the new season really is only days away.
It’s another unusual launch, as the standalone opener between Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants – Super League Champions versus League Leaders – kicks it all off on Friday night, as good a curtain raiser as you could hope to come up with.
The beginning of a new season is always fascinating. Any question marks that have arisen in pre-season – and there are certainly a few of those – will start to be answered over the next week or two.
The game goes into the new campaign buoyed by the announcement last week that BSkyB have wrapped up the TV rights for the game until the end of 2021, with the new contract, worth £200 million over five years from 2017 to 2021.
That’s an increase from £127 million for the five-year period up to 2016. And each club will get an immediate cash injection of £300,000, We now have a reasonable idea why the ‘rebel’ clubs had to give the green light to the re-structure of the competitions in 2015.
All in all it’s a significant coup by RFL chief executive Nigel Wood, who has outflanked his critics while delivering a secure future for the game. Of course the devil is as usual in the detail, but there is certainly more room for manoeuvre when it comes to allocations to clubs, with 24 clubs now presumably being given enough monies to have a fair chance of making the top flight.
The RFL, we are sure, would not want to see the same four Super League clubs going down annually to the middle eight and bouncing straight back up into the top twelve again the following season.
Whatever the implications for the re-structure, the long-term tie-in with BSkyB hasn’t pleased everyone and on page four of today’s League Express a leading club Chairman gives his view.
Sky has been fantastic for Rugby League, whatever your views on Eddie & Stevo, and we can be sure they will continue to innovate, though the first fall-out from the deal is that Premier Sports will not be showing Championship games any more.
We sincerely hope that Sky will step in to fill that gap this season.
How nice it will be to start watching some meaningful rugby this week.
Don’t miss next week’s League Express, which will feature a comprehensive club-by-club preview to the new Super League and Championship season.
What do you think? Are you more excited than ever for the season to start? Will this be the most memorable of all in the Super League era? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below. Scroll down to see a video of Wigan taking on Huddersfield in round three of last year.