Eamonn McManus keen to take St Helens to Las Vegas as NRL chairman supports English involvement

EAMONN McMANUS would like to take St Helens to Las Vegas if English clubs can get involved in the NRL’s American venture.

The NRL season recently began with a double-header in the USA, the first of a five-year deal to host Rugby League annually in Vegas.

The NRL has raised the possibility of Super League involvement in the future, while RL Commercial managing director Rhodri Jones has said conversations will take place with Australian bosses over the World Club Challenge having a place.

Currently the match between the champions of each hemisphere is organised between the participating clubs and hosted by one of them, and has never been played outside England or Australia.

But McManus, who has seen Saints win world titles on both sides of the world in his 22-year stint as chairman, believes it would be a valuable addition to the Vegas event.

“It would add to the portfolio and add to the appeal,” he told League Express.

“It’s a match that means so much to an American audience, rather than two league games from the NRL. Which is the best team in the world? 

“I’m sure that would add to it and we should be speaking to the NRL along those lines.”

The inaugural Vegas event attracted over 40,000 fans at the Allegiant Stadium and McManus says that English involvement would bring many more supporters.

“It’s a decision for the NRL, because they’ve got the five-year contract. It’s obviously to promote the NRL first, and Rugby League as a consequence,” he said.

“But I’m absolutely sure that if you’re looking at promoting the game worldwide, there are some clubs in this country – and I’d like to think St Helens is one – that could really add to the spectacle, and add to the number of supporters that would go over there to watch it. 

“I’m absolutely sure many thousands of Rugby League supporters from the north of England would go over and watch if English clubs were involved.”

And that view already appears to have been accepted by NRL chairman Peter V’landys.

“That is something we are definitely looking at,” V’landys told 2GB Radio at the weekend.

“There were more than 1,000 people who came from England to Las Vegas and we are told by travel agents that the English are the biggest travellers in the world and Vegas is definitely one of those places you want to go to.

“So if we do have a Super League game or a World Club Challenge game, we are going to substantially increase the number of English people coming to Vegas.

“We are certainly looking at that. Even if we don’t have a World Club Challenge, we could have a Super League game and we have had interest from Super League clubs in joining us as part of the week.

“It’s only going to get bigger and bigger and when we talk about it in five years, you’ll see what I mean.”

Closer to home, Super League is trying to grow its profile with the help of strategic partners IMG.

The new season – the first without relegation under the new grading system – has brought TV coverage of every match in the competition for the first time.

McManus said: “I felt sorry for IMG in a way. The contract (with the RFL) was signed a year before the new TV deal was agreed so they didn’t have time to put the changes in place to add value. 

“But this year I do feel a difference. There’s got to be a build-up because next time we really do need an improved TV deal. We certainly can’t keep reducing. 

“I think IMG’s groundwork will become more and more evident as time progresses.”