Lenagan criticism prompts RFL response

Brian Barwick
Brian Barwick

RFL chairman Brian Barwick has hit back after comments made by Ian Lenagan about the new Sky Sports TV deal.

The Warriors owner was one of a number of club bosses to criticise the new five-year deal which is worth around £200million.

Lenagan described it as a “dreadful commercial decision to be agreeing in 2014, with three years still to go on Super League’s current deal.”

Salford owner Marwan Koukash also criticised the move saying: “You don’t marry the first girl you meet. You go out with them, you sleep with them, you try them, but don’t commit to the long-term relationship until you’re sure there’s no one else better.”

These comments have angered RFL bosses with Barwick explaining the reasons behind the new deal being Sky’s “outstanding service” after 20 years of coverage.

“I have been disappointed by the public response of a small minority of Super League clubs to the securing of a new broadcast agreement with our long-term partners, Sky Sports,” he said.

“To retain this long-standing broadcast partnership, and at significantly increased financial terms, is indeed a great win for rugby League.

“Also, the terms of the new contract which starts in 2017 are so beneficial that they give Super League clubs, Championships clubs and the community game a fantastic, secure and long-sighted platform from which to build their futures and develop our great sport.

“As to the Super League clubs meeting last week, I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say, after hearing a comprehensive presentation on all aspects of the new deal, the clubs themselves voted to vote on the proposal.”

Lenagan did vote for the deal but later said he regretted the decision whereas Koukash voted against.

Barwick added: “Most of the clubs recognised that the best result for the immediate future of the game was in front of them, as indeed the significant majority that voted in favour of the offer from Sky Sports underlined.

“The other clubs were able to vote against it as they saw fit, which is appropriate.

“What I feel isn’t appropriate, though, is the tone and content of the criticism by some of the Super League clubs who have their own reservations about the deal.

“This broadcast contract is the biggest in rugby league history and actually offers Super League clubs an uplift of 63 per cent in annual distributions.

“It is also the latest in a number of upbeat initiatives we have enjoyed in recent months: with such a strong wind in our sails, I will not stand by and allow the sport to be blown off-course.”