As rugby league enters its new era, the BBC have fired a timely reminder that the problems the game has go far beyond the structure of the leagues.
In announcing that the Super League Show is returning for its 17th year, the BBC revealed that it will continue to be broadcast first in the north only on Monday nights at 11.45pm, before a national repeat on BBC2 at 1pm on Tuesdays.
We should, of course, be grateful given that the Super League Show is rugby league’s “only weekly programme on terrestrial TV.”
And we maybe shouldn’t be surprised, given that even when London Broncos were in the competition, it never made it national.
For how long does the sport need to put up with this marginalisation, and what is being done by those running the game to force the issue?
Forget the fact that there are now nine UK clubs outside of the traditional heartlands plying their trade in the top three tiers, the game continues to grow in participation and interest in the south.
There will be those that say that Super League is made up of only clubs in the north plus Catalans, but it’s the 21st century – people move. There are plenty of northerners living down south for various reasons, and that’s not meant to offend the many southerners who miraculously continue enjoy their rugby league despite the obstacles placed in front of them.
It’s not as if rugby league has failed the BBC. Good numbers were reported for some early morning international games from the Four Nations, while the World Cup also had respectable figures.
In some ways, it doesn’t make sense
A weekly magazine programme of Super League isn’t going to reach those heights – but it would cause no harm if the first viewing of the Super League Show was national.
Or are the BBC assuming that all rugby league fans down south must either be jobless or work nights?
A quick look at the TV schedule for this Monday shows that the BBC are televising a repeat of the Graham Norton Show and a repeat of “The Super Rich and Us” at the approximate time that they will be showing the Super League Show exclusively in the north come the season’s start.
That said, we look forward to seeing what Tanya Arnold, Eorl Crabtree and the rest of the team have to say over the course of the season – apart from when we’re down south, of course.