RUGBY UNION’S new television deal is fantastic for them, but not great for our sport.
The Aviva Premiership have signed a new six-year contract with BT Sport, who will have exclusive live broadcast rights.
The reports I’ve read say it could be an 80 per cent increase on the previous contract.
That is massive for rugby union and it will probably allow the Premiership to compete with the French competition, which is where most of the money has been in recent years.
Tthe Premiership may increase their salary cap and the amount of cash floating around there now is going to turn some rugby league players’ heads. It will mean union clubs can afford to look at our best and most high-profile players, which can’t be a good thing for Super League or the England team.
In recent years we have lost some high-profile players from Super League, either to rugby union – the likes of Joel Tomkins and Kyle Eastmond – or the NRL, including James Graham and Sam Tomkins. And in the case of Sam Burgess, both.
Our salary cap is something players do talk about and we could probably spend hours debating the rights and wrongs.
Personally, I think having a cap on players’ wages is a good thing overall. Too many clubs have gone bust chasing a dream and the salary cap has made Super League more of an even playing field, even if there is still an established top four or five.
If a cap prevents clubs going into administration that is a good thing, but from a player’s point of view, obviously you would like to be paid more.
It’s human nature to want to do a bit better and in sport you’re always aware it is a short career that could end abruptly.
That said, I am not sure raising the salary cap would be a good thing at the moment. There isn’t a huge amount of money in the game and it would allow clubs with a rich backer to pull away from the rest. I think it would also lead to clubs over-spending and more of them going bust and unless it was a huge increase, it probably wouldn’t attract really big names from overseas or the other code.
What we need to do is attract more sponsorship and other money into the game, so the cap can eventually be raised without causing those problems.
Obviously we want to hang on to our best players and stop them being tempted away to rugby union or Australia’s NRL and one thing that might do that is a marquee player rule – so clubs can bring in a high-profile, world-class player without him counting on the cap.
That’s something Salford’s owner Dr Marwan Koukash is very keen on and I think it will probably be brought in over the next year or two.
By bringing in top-quality, household names you make the game more attractive to sponsors and broadcasters and that’s what we all want, but they have to be backed by a good squad.
Sky TV recently signed a long-term deal to cover Super League and that’s something else we’ve talked about before and after training.
I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I can understand the argument that the game should have waited and tried to get more money from another broadcaster.
But as far as I know, they aren’t exactly queuing up to cover rugby league and it would have been a huge risk.
I think Sky have done a fantastic job for the game in this country. The amount of money they have put in allowed Super League clubs to go full-time and I think overall they give us really good coverage and support.
I am not sure what sort of competition there would be if the RFL said they were willing to talk to other TV companies.
I know Gary Hetherington, our chief executive, backed the latest Sky deal and – without wanting to kiss up to the boss –that is good enough for me.
Our club is run unbelievably well and I know decisions Gary makes are for the good of the sport as a whole.
The clubs agreed the new deal and gave it their full backing and I think that was the right decision.
WE NEED to get back on track tonight.
We were proud of our 100 per cent start to the season and losing at Warrington last week hurt. A few days later we are all still a bit sore, mentally as well as physically and what hurt most was our performance.
There was no doubting our attitude or effort, but in terms of performance I thought we were well below-par.
We actually defended well, as Warrington did and it took a bit of individual magic, a kick-try and a mistake for them to break us down, so we are going all right in that department.
But with the ball we weren’t good enough. We scored a fantastic long-range try, but apart from that we didn’t really threaten.
As a half-back you have to take responsibility for that and so I was very disappointed with my own performance.
There’s been a bit said about their two tries in the first half, which both went to the video referee. Incidents like that can go for or against you and we’ve had them in our favour in the past, but you have to take it on the chin when they don’t.
We should have made the tackle for their first try, which was a great effort by Kevin Penny, so there’s no complaints or excuses from us.
We have to focus on what we can control, which is our own performance, rather than anything else.
Tonight is a good opportunity to get back on track, in front of our own fans. It is always a big game when we play Wigan and they are the sort of team we’d like to be playing straight after a loss such as last week’s.
They will be up for it and over the last few years there’s been no love lost between us and them, so it will be a cracker and we know we have to be at or near our best to get anything out of it.
After last week we can’t wait to get out there, hopefully play a lot better and get back to winning ways.