League Express editor MARTYN SADLER sets out the issues that will be considered by Super League in the forthcoming working days.
The Super League directors will discuss four important matters in the next few days, culminating in a meeting that was originally scheduled for Monday but which may also be stretched to Tuesday.
First, Super League Executive Chairman Robert Elstone is expected to report back on the progress of negotiations for a new broadcasting deal from the 2022 season.
Anyone who believes that the offer will match the existing deal negotiated for former RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood, which was for £200 million over five years, is living in cloud-cuckoo land.
I understand the TV rights for Super League and the other competitions were valued earlier this year at between £28 million and £35 million per season, and the eventual figure offered is likely to be around £30 million per year.
In some respects, given the losses that Sky must have suffered this year, I would be surprised if it was as much as that.
But I’m afraid that the Super League clubs will have to tighten their belts, and that the non-Super League clubs will have to find alternative sources of income.
The second thing that the Super League directors will discuss is the prospect of investors coming in from outside to buy part of the Super League, in the same way that the venture capital company CVC Partners has bought a significant stake in rugby union.
At the moment I understand that there are no investors who have come forward to make a genuine bid for a financial stake in Super League.
That is hardly surprising.
Who could possibly contemplate making a major investment in any organisation running a sporting competition when none of us know what the future holds?
And I’m quite glad that progress on this front looks unlikely.
I don’t see the sense in giving up long-term control of Super League for short-term gain.
From what I hear of the other code, there are plenty of club owners in rugby union who regret having ceded control to CVC.
That’s partly because you don’t just give up a degree of control, but you also give up a significant portion of the gains accruing from future growth.
If Super League wants to raise additional funds, the best thing to do in the current economic climate is to borrow against the value of its assets, which in its case is the value of its broadcasting rights.
Interest rates on borrowed capital are ridiculously low at the moment. And borrowing money means that you retain full control of your organisation while guiding it into less turbulent times.
The third thing they’ll discuss is a re-structure of the season to re-classify the final four weeks of the season as play-off weeks.
Given the way that time is marching on, this is a decision that needs to be made very quickly. We are already seeing some of the Super League clubs running out of steam, with Salford unable to raise a team this week because of injuries, and Castleford being out of action for two weeks after a Covid outbreak.
The only question is how many teams would qualify for the play-offs. I would prefer a five-team competition of the sort that was introduced last season. But it isn’t out of the question that Super League could plan for anything up to eight clubs taking part.
And the fourth and final thing the Super League directors will decide upon is the Toronto Wolfpack, with a final decision on the Wolfpack’s participation next year due to be made on Monday.
With Super League’s Chairman Robert Elstone still standing out in opposition to the Wolfpack, there is some suggestion that some of the clubs that were strongly opposed to them are moderating their views. I hope that’s true, but we will only find out presumably after Monday’s meeting.
Whatever happens, I’m sure that future Rugby League historians will look back on this week as a crucial one in the history of the game.
This article is a modified section of Martyn Sadler’s ‘Talking Rugby League’ column that first featured in this week’s League Express. To take out a subscription to the printed or digital version of League Express, go to https://www.totalrl.com/league-express/