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SBD Global/February 5, 2014/Media

Super League Rugby Chiefs Blast New $325M Sky TV Deal Set For 2017

Wigan Chair Ian Lenagan has questioned the Super League's new TV deal.
Super League rugby side Wigan Warriors Chair Ian Lenagan "has questioned the wisdom" of the league's new TV deal, according to the BBC. The Super League last week revealed a new five-year deal with Sky worth around £200M ($325M), to begin when the current contract expires at the end of '16. Lenagan: "It is a dreadful commercial decision to be agreeing with three years to go on the current deal. We are now shut out from any increase in the value of broadcasting rights over an eight-year period." The current deal is worth £127M ($207M) but, despite the increase of around £73M ($118M), Lenagan "sees it as a missed opportunity" (BBC, 2/3). In London, Ash Howes reported most clubs "are still sticking by the collective vow to keep silent about any objections to the game’s controversial new structure." But Lenagan decided on Monday "to come out firing." Lenagan is "arguably the biggest opponent of the new system" and of Rugby Football League CEO Nigel Wood. Lenagan is also "angry that clubs were given only 24 hours notice of the meeting to discuss the deal and a limited amount of time to study the details before being forced into an immediate take-it-or-leave-it vote." He "now wishes he had not agreed," saying, “I regret immensely that, under the pressure of time and a stated desire for some unanimity, I voted Wigan in favor of accepting the deal because it was clear that financially-challenged clubs would support it” (TELEGRAPH, 2/3). Defending the deal, Wood said, "There is democracy at work at all levels in rugby league. Everyone in the sport wants it to succeed and I don’t think anyone would not salute that flag. Whatever measures are taken to improve the sport should be welcomed" (THE DRUM, 2/4).

SOUR IN SALFORD: In London, Andy Wilson reported Salford Owner Marwan Koukash has followed Lenagan by "slamming Super League's new long-term television deal with Sky in a scattergun attack on the game's governing body." Koukash offered a collection of sponsors, supporters and media his thoughts on recent Super League developments. Of the Sky deal, he said, "I voted against it, because I didn't think it is the right one. You don't marry the first girl you meet. You go out with them, you sleep with them, you try them, but don't commit to the long-term relationship until you're sure there's no one else better." Koukash "was especially annoyed at the lack of notice he and the other Super League chairmen were given." Koukash: "All right, we've got more money -- bloody £300,000 ($489,000) per year. Will it let us increase the salary cap? No. I tell you what it will do -- it will allow us to stabilize some of the clubs." Koukash was "similarly scathing over the new three-year sponsorship deal with First Utility that was announced last week." Koukash: "Supposedly wonderful news, but we will be lucky if we get £30-40,000 ($49-65,000). We are securing better deals than that ourselves as a club" (GUARDIAN, 2/4).

SPENDING MONEY: In Sydney, Steve Mascord reported English rugby league chiefs are hopeful the TV windfall "will help halt the player exodus to the NRL." Wood said that while there were no immediate plans to increase the salary cap, the new cash "could make a marquee player system more likely." Wood: "It will certainly help" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/5).
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