Ian Lenagan talks TV deal, recruitment... and Wigan Warriors ownership

Ian Lenagan expects Super League to extend its arrangement with Sky Sports - but admits the proposed new deal is "not as much as we'd like".

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 6:26 pm
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan

He spoke to the media today and, in a wide-ranging interview, answered questions about the future of the competition, his hopes for Wigan - and reiterated he has no plans to step away from the club.

The existing broadcasting contract runs out at the end of 2011 but they have been in talks about extending their link.

“We’re pleased with a decent response to our tender, we’re even more pleased Sky want to continue the partnership which has served us so well for many years,” he told a press conference over Zoom.

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“We have to recognise the reality of the economic climate and broadcasting climate. We think we’ll get on with our discussions with Sky, they’re taking place positively right now, and we’re looking forward to 2021 continue the increases of.

“It’s not as much as we’d like but enough for rugby league to survive and move forward.”

Lenagan has been chairman of Wigan since 2007 and, under his tenure, reestablished the club as a Super League force.

Last year, he sold a quarter of the club to fellow Wiganer Mike Danson – a multimillionaire businessman – leading to suggestions that he could be the eventual successor.

But the 75-year-old reiterated he has no plans to step back, if he remains healthy enough.

“Having been supposedly on the verge of selling (according to one report), we’ve still got the same 75 per cent ownership and I have no intention of retiring at this stage,” said Lenagan.

“Wigan is in a good place, we have two other shareholders as well as the Lenagan family.

"If I have my way, the Lenagan family will run Wigan for the next 10 or 15 years.

“But who knows, I may fall over tomorrow, bankruptcy, who knows what the hell could happen? But we have every intention of continuing to run Wigan.”

Wigan parted with marquee prop George Burgess earlier this year after the ex-Souths star was told he needed hip surgery. Lenagan has not ruled out making another signing but said: “A lot of that depends on what audiences through gates are going to be.

“When you’ve got a 35-40 per cent swing either way on whether the government allows fans back into stadiums at 2000, 4000, 8000 or whatever. You can’t be possibly splashing out money at this stage. But we’re always on the lookout.

“Kris (Radlinski) and I spent a lot of time yesterday talking about potential people in terms of 2022 and 2021. The opportunity will come around, there’s no doubt about that. You never say never but it’s unlikely at this stage. We would rather like a prop forward if another was around as our fans would tell you I’m sure.”

In terms of the upcoming season, he hopes crowds - even limited – may return by June, an increase in TV audiences and “from a Wigan view point I want us to win the Grand Final.”

He says he was disappointed Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone resigned and added: “I’m disappointed for him as he didn’t succeed as much as he’d have liked. A board of 12 opinionated chairmen, and I’m one, it’s a difficult task. We’ll be discussing that structure in the next month or so.

“(But) the TV audiences, they’re delighted at how they’ve been turned around after six years of diminution to see them go back up in 2019 and 2020, why don’t people talk about that? Why don’t they talk about the fact we’ve got 24 per cent increases audiences? We are much better than we were.”