Talking Rugby League with League Express editor Martyn Sadler
Shortly after Saturday’s Super League Grand Final I tweeted: “I can’t immediately think of a Grand Final I’ve enjoyed more than this one. A credit to both sides.”
Twenty-four hours later I still feel that way.
We have seen some marvellous Grand Finals over the years, but Saturday’s game had everything we could want from such a game, apart from one thing.
It had skill, commitment, toughness, great defence, daring attack, lots of controversy and plenty of heroes.
It also had a wonderful atmosphere and great poignancy when we saw Rob Burrow and his family presenting the Harry Sunderland Trophy to its winner.
Anyone who was at Old Trafford on Saturday couldn’t fail to be impressed by what unfolded in front of them.
But there was one thing missing and it was about 30,000 people.
The crowd of 45,177 was not as bad as some people predicted, once we knew that the Catalans Dragons were going to appear at Old Trafford.
But the Grand Final should be of sufficient stature to be an automatic full house regardless of which clubs are involved.
So why isn’t it?
It’s a question that needs to be answered, because now they have got there once, there is every chance that the Catalans will be there again, perhaps as early as next year.
What I find surprising, or even staggering, is the lack of support for the Grand Final from other clubs in Super League.
I’ve written several times in the past that all the clubs in Super League should be expected to sell a certain number of tickets for the Grand Final in advance of the match, whether they participate in it or not.
Even if they were only given a thousand each to sell, perhaps with special offers to their season-ticket holders, it would make a significant difference.
I also think we should learn a lesson from the NFL, who always leave a two-week gap before the Superbowl. That gives lots of time to build up the event, and would have helped enormously this year in giving Catalans supporters more time in trying to book travel packages from France to Manchester.
When you have your biggest game of the season, it’s not a bad idea to give yourself plenty of time to promote it and build up an audience.
At the moment we try to do that in just a week, and that clearly isn’t enough time.
Another triumph for Saints
I commented last week that St Helens seem to have everything covered that’s important in Rugby League.
And they demonstrated that on Sunday, when their Women’s team won the Women’s Super League Grand Final, with an impressive 28-0 victory over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley in front of 4,235 spectators, which is a record for a women’s game in this country.
Congratulations once more to St Helens, who set the standards that other clubs can only try to emulate.
And well done to all those supporters who turned out to watch the game.
Cumbrian Rugby League on the rise
Next season the Championship competition will include Barrow, Whitehaven and Workington, giving scope for plenty of Cumbrian derbies, with most of them hopefully broadcast by Premier Sports, as part of the new deal that was announced last week by the RFL.
I’m looking forward to seeing some rugby regularly on Monday evenings.
Premier will be paying something in excess of £200,000 per season for the privilege of broadcasting Championship Rugby League, but their investment will run to far more than that, given the production costs of broadcasting those matches.
Meanwhile it was interesting to view Workington’s financial figures for the year ended 31 December 2020.
Although the club doesn’t lodge full accounts with Companies House, it seems that it made a profit for the year of £113,472. Its current liabilities were down from £158,924 to £68,014, although its long term bank loans increased from £21,295 to £49,375.
Nonetheless, like many clubs outside Super League, the impact of Covid doesn’t seem to have negatively affected their balance sheets adversely, no doubt because of the government shouldering the burden of furlough payments.
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