Dragons to ease financial strain

Catalans Dragons won’t take long licking their wounds from “a year of hell” as the club looks forward to new opportunities in 2021.

Shell-shocked by their 48-2 drubbing in Friday’s play-off semi-final at St Helens, the Dragons are keen to put the events of this season behind them as they strive for a new TV deal and take full advantage of French government aid to rebuild their finances during the close-season.

“This year has been absolute hell,” a Catalans official told League Express, adding: “It has been a miracle that we have managed to get through it.

“The effects of the virus have hit every walk of life and financially it has been devastating for us. It’s essential that we look forward now and plans are already in place for major developments next year.”

Those developments include the real possibility of a new television deal with French sports media giant L’Equipe.

The Dragons had already made provisional arrangements for L’Equipe to broadcast this Friday’s Super League Grand Final, should the Dragons have made it past St Helens.

Discussions on a new TV deal for 2021 are at an advanced stage and any new deal would see the Catalans switching from their traditional Saturday afternoon slot to Friday evenings.

The Dragons are unique in Super League that they have brokered their own television contracts with French broadcasters in the past, with live games from Stade Gilbert Brutus regularly shown in collaboration with local production companies and Sky Sports.

But Les Dracs were left in the dark this year when their previous contract with beIN Sport was not renewed at the end of season 2019.

Catalans President Bernard Guasch has made no secret that TV coverage is essential for the finances of the club, proving attractive to sponsors and advertisers, and he has worked tirelessly on a new deal.

“It’s crucial for the club going forward,” said the Dragons spokesman.

“It’s essential for the game as a whole that it is shown on television in France and we’re all looking forward to the day when another French team will be on our screens.”

Catalans have made no secret of their support for Toulouse Olympique’s bid to join Super League, believing the potential of a brand new French derby would benefit the game enormously in France.

Also of benefit to French Rugby League was the announcement of a 400 million euro package of financial aid for sport, announced by President Emmanuel Macron last week.

President Guasch had been lobbying for government aid and the club is now looking into the details of the available funding, which will also be of benefit to Toulouse and the whole of French Rugby League, including amateur clubs.

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