IAN Lenagan last night leapt to the defence of Super League’s financial health following claims the sport is “staring at the financial abyss.”
A BBC documentary yesterday evening highlighted the top-level competition’s combined £60m debt.
The timing of the Inside Out programme, presented by George Riley, could hardly have been worse coming just days ahead of the launch of the new Super League season.
And Lenagan says he is growing increasingly frustrated with the self-generated negativity. He said: “I get tired of people involved in the sport continually knocking it.
“What is it about rugby league that makes them want to draw so much negativity to the sport?
“We have a game that many, many people in other sports compliment. Rugby union continues to look at our players to go into their national team.
“We have rising attendances at the matches, massively rising TV attendances.
“Aside from the international game – where rugby union is clearly better – we are in a good position.”
Though the RFL has yet to secure a title sponsor for Super League days before it begins, Lenagan believes they are making good progress in the commercial and marketing sectors.
He said: “Commercially, the game has not been as good as it could have been in the past.
“But what is going on now with James Mercer at the RFL – who is doing an exemplary job – we will come to a position where the sport will have good sponsors.”
The BBC’s broadcast included an investigation by finance specialist Rob Wildon from Sheffield Hallam University, who said he was “alarmed” after studying 11 of the 14 top-tier clubs’ balance sheets.
“Using a term like ‘rugby league is staring at the financial abyss’ isn’t too harsh a thing to say”, he said.
Wigan are one of the few Super League clubs in a strong position financially.
But Lenagan, also owner of League Two football outfit Oxford United, put the findings into context, adding: “No sport – whether it’s rugby union, rugby league or football – is financially marvellous.
“You do get some clubs, whether that’s Man United or Leeds Rhinos, that are in good health – Wigan are in good, robust health – but sport by and large is not renowned for being in a healthy financial position.
“What is encouraging for rugby league is there are people interested in taking over existing clubs, like at Bradford and now at Salford, and that is a major strong point for the sport.
“So relatively speaking, rugby league is in a good position and there are many strong points. I do get tired of people within the game continuing to knock it.”
WARRIORS full-back Jack Murphy has joined Salford on a month-long loan and will be eligible to play against his parent club in Friday’s Super League opener.