Rugby league clubs will head to the Rugby Football League’s AGM in Huddersfield on Wednesday keen for more information about the direction of travel the sport plans to take with its new TV deal.
The majority of the sport’s professional clubs are expected to be in attendance as the governing body goes through a number of key topics, including finance and, perhaps most notably for many supporters, a possible update on who will broadcast Super League and other key competitions in 2024 and beyond.
On the eve of that meeting, this is what you need to know – and what could happen on Wednesday.
The chair of Rugby League Commercial, Rhodri Jones, has been lined up to speak for around 15 minutes at Wednesday’s meeting, Thirteen has been told. In that 15 minutes, there is an expectation – although not a guarantee – that he will update clubs and stakeholders on the progress surrounding a new television deal.
Sky Sports are in negotiations to renew their long-standing agreement and are the frontrunners to land the deal. But there have been reports of interest from DAZN and TNT Sports, the new name for BT Sports. Talk that could inflate the price Sky ultimately pay is unlikely, though.
The feeling from clubs that Thirteen has spoken to is that Sky Sports are still likely to be airing Super League in 2024. They paid roughly £24million for the rights this year, and while a renewal of 12 months is not out of the question, talks have taken place over a multi-year arrangement and this looks to be the likely direction of travel at present.
TNT Sports and DAZN’s interest is credible, particularly that of DAZN, who are keen to add rugby league to their streaming platform. But Sky are, Thirteen has been told, still the leading contenders to be showing the competition next season.
Whether Jones will reveal full details at the AGM is unclear, not least because talks have not yet been fully concluded. But there is expected to be an update of some sort. Clubs, however, will have no vote on the broadcaster: it will be Rugby League Commercial’s decision alone who claims the rights for 2024.
There is also a pensive mood among Championship clubs. The amount of central distribution they receive has gradually gone down over recent years, especially since the sport’s bumper eight-year deal with Sky which was signed in the last decade. Many Championship clubs now receive around a quarter of what they did during that TV deal, and there is a fear that if a reduced deal is agreed for 2024, clubs outside of Super League could effectively receive next to no central distribution.
Some answers clubs have about the future could at least be answered in the next 24 hours, though.