We’re all probably aware of the dwarfed coverage Rugby League can get at times: and when you consider the amount of top level sport going on in this country, sometimes it’s no surprise.
For example, when you’ve got a summer that features football’s European Championships, Wimbledon, Formula 1 aplenty and an extensive period of international cricket, you can assume that week-to-week coverage of the sport in the next couple of months will be pretty dormant.
Which makes the scheduling of this weekend’s fixtures all the more baffling. Look at the country’s big sports: any major football this weekend? Nope. What about cricket? No. Rugby union? Not really.
So Rugby League has got a great chance to get some column inches in light of other sports having a quiet weekend – but instead of that, we decide to have FIVE of our six weekly fixtures on a Friday.
Admittedly there are reasons for that, which we’ll get into. But when you consider that there will be no Super League on a Saturday and, perhaps more criminally, Sunday too, it’s a mind-boggling decision that pretty much guarantees we’ve missed a trick with our scheduling this weekend.
Sunday has long been our traditional day for Rugby League, and at this time of year, when we’re just ticking over into June, the chances of the weather holding out are increasingly high, too. Thus, you’d have a perfect opportunity to get a couple of games on the Sunday – when it’s quiet elsewhere – and really showcase the sport. You could have picked the papers up on Monday morning and seen some pretty decent coverage: but instead, you’ll get next to nothing now.
It’s understandable and acceptable that some clubs want to play their games on Fridays. Leeds are a long-standing example of that, which chalks their game against Catalans off the list. Salford have been known to tinker with Fridays and Sundays, but are clearly preferring a move to earlier in the week – so again, their game against Wigan is out.
St Helens v Warrington is the TV game, so that’s understandable. However, the two games that could have been on Sunday have been deprived any chance of that because of the ludicrous Thursday scheduling and subsequent short turnaround.
Next Thursday’s TV game is Castleford v Widnes – and had it not been, you could have imagined both of their games being on Sunday this week. Widnes’ trip to Hull and especially Castleford’s derby with Huddersfield may have been prime Sunday viewing, but because they have to have a longer turnaround, the games have been bumped back.
And that’s the problem in essence. The reason we’re losing Sundays from our calendar is because of the Thursday slot. It’s got its positives in that it can attract a new audience and it generally doesn’t clash with much other live sport – but when we’re getting blank weekends like this one, it is shown up for what it is.
And whilst we’re on audiences, that’s another worry about this weekend. With five games, so 10 teams, all playing at the same time, you’re going to have a majorly reduced viewing audience and substantially lower viewing figures this weekend.
But who knows, maybe it’ll give the Championship a chance to step into the spotlight on Saturday and Sunday – so there could be a positive to it all.