Smith backs bold restart plan

Hull Kingston Rovers coach Tony Smith has emerged as one of the key figures behind a proposal to screen all Super League matches when it is safe to do so and offer some matches on pay-per-view to raise funds for clubs at all levels.
The plan, which was put together by a group of administrators, players and coaches, based on an initial idea by agent Craig Harrison, focuses on returning to play behind closed doors and televising every single top-flight match from one venue each weekend.
The games that are not screened by Sky Sports, which normally shows two games per week, would then be offered on a pay-per-view basis that would provide every club in the professional game with a chance to generate income.
Each fan would state which club they support when purchasing the match with that payment going directly to their clubs, with season-ticket holders for the “home” team getting the matches free.
Among other high-profile figures to have backed the proposal are Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Sean O’Loughlin, Daryl Powell and Luke Gale, with a host of other current players tweeting their support over the weekend.
Rovers boss Smith says the sport needs a plan to ensure that club owners retain their interest in the sport during the current difficult times.
Smith said: “Our sport needs to be prepared for whatever is next, and that is difficult as some things can’t be answered yet.
“If we are just thinking about when the turnstiles will reopen that could be some time yet, and we have to consider how we can possibly self-sustain or generate income in order to keep the owners of clubs involved.
“It’s vital that those owners stay involved for the survival of the sport.
“I’m open to all ideas and this one seems the most plausible, depending on who is willing to buy into it and drive it forward.
“The biggest one of those is Sky, who are imperative to anything moving forward.
“They have been the biggest investors in our sport out of anybody, and if they endorse this they could play a really big part in the survival of it.”
Both Sinfield and Smith have stressed that player safety must be at the forefront of any return to playing, with players routinely tested before being cleared to take the field.
Last week both the Premier League and Football League openly discussed the fact that they are likely to have to play behind closed doors when their seasons resume.
News has emerged this week of cuts to players’ wages across Super League, underlining the reality of the sport’s current financial position.