Super League does NOT need significant change, insists Wigan Warriors boss Ian Lenagan

Ian Lenagan does not believe Super League needs an overhaul and is optimistic about the competition’s future.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 5:38 pm
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Last week, interim-chairman of the competition, Ken Davy, said “significant change” was needed to drive the sport forward.

Davy, who took over when executive chairman Robert Elstone departed, is working on realigning Super League with the RFL.

Lenagan agrees there needs to be “some change of political structure”, including joint-marketing of the Challenge Cup, Super League and the international game.

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“Which doesn’t mean merge everything back together, just the commercial properties – we all agree about that,” said the Wigan chairman.

The value of Super League’s new Sky Sports broadcast deal has been cut from £40m a year to around £24m, but Lenagan can see positives and potential for growth.

He said: “Do we want to to change the game radically? No.

“I react against his comment that we need significant change if he’s talking about the game itself. The game is attractive, it’s got bigger TV crowds every year, I think the game has a good future.

“In two years’ time, if we carry on in the direction we’re going, we’ve got £24m and I think that’ll go up to £30m and onwards to £35m.

“Secondly we’ve turned down an injection of money (from private equity) but that’s still a possibility.

“And thirdly, and equally, we’ve got the streaming rights for the next two years.

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"We’ve got the ability to put 10 games a year on terrestrial TV, we’ve got the ability of 65 other games which can be streamed - that’s an area we need to build in the next two years.

“So when I hear we have to change radically... a little bit is true in terms of who is in charge.”

Davy has already revealed that, of the £24m Super League receives from Sky Sports, £5m will go towards the RFL. He also floated an idea of a 10-team Super League, with a 10-team competition below.

Lenagan is open to the idea in principle, but questioned whether it would make sense financially, given the 12 top-tier clubs currently each receive around £1.8m of central funding and the second-tier a much lower amount, which he fears could lead to a ‘yoyo’ of a promoted team not being able to compete and dropping straight back down.

“There is a suggestion of two sets of 10, and that is worth debating,” he said. “From Wigan’s viewpoint 10 teams is possibly better - 13 home games, 13 away and Magic.

“If you look at 10 teams, it could be a far stronger league, but the critical factor is money.

“Would we like 10 and 10, or 12 and 10, it’s what you can afford. So when you say there has to be radical change – if it’s 10 and 10, which I have no problem with, but other clubs may have – then it’s not going to happen. So the financials have to go together with the idea.”

Lenagan added that “there are people around who think the coverage by Sky could be improved dramatically.”