THE world of rugby league is entering into a critical stage of its summer game existence as IMG prepares the sport for wholesale changes.
Etching a 12-year-deal to ‘reimagine’ the sport, IMG is currently preparing its grading criteria to hand over to Super League and Championship clubs next month.
Whilst that is crucial, the sport’s backbone is also up for grabs at the end of 2023 with rugby league’s Sky Sports coming to an end.
Since 1996, Sky Sports has been the sole provider of Super League rugby league until 2022 saw Channel 4 come onto the radar.
That deal, too, ends at the end of 2023 and Rugby League Commercial managing director Rhodri Jones has emphasised just how big a year it is for the sport in terms of broadcasting deals.
“From a broadcast perspective Sky Sports are a long-term partner and still continue to be a fantastic partner for the sport,” Jones said.
“Everybody will be aware they’re in the final year of their contract, we’re in discussions as you would expect.
“The same goes with the Channel 4 contract which ties in a little bit with the Sky contract at the moment.
“Soundings from Channel 4 are very positive in terms of continuing their relationship with Super League.”
The Championship’s broadcaster, ViaPlay, also has a deal that runs out at the end of 2023, whilst the BBC – famous for its brilliant Challenge Cup coverage – lasts until the end of 2024.
“The BBC contract runs till the end of 2024 so that’s locked in, obviously they’ve been a long-term partner of the sport and we hope they continue that as well,” Jones continued.
“We also have Viaplay in the Championship as well, that concludes at the end of this year as well so it’s a key year clearly.”
Just what deal the sport will be able to strike up with Channel 4, Sky Sports and ViaPlay remains to be seen.