Talking RL: Does it matter if The Sun covers Super League?

There were two nail-biting Super League games on Sunday...and there wasn’t a line about either in Monday’s copy of The Sun.

Friday, 14th June 2019, 11:38 am
Updated Friday, 14th June 2019, 12:38 pm
The Sun's correspondent wasn't at the Magic Weekend

Not even a mention in the scores round-up which included speedway and darts.

It seems the newspaper has boycotted the sport in protest that its reporter wasn’t allowed into Anfield for the Magic Weekend.

The red-top’s journalists aren’t allowed to home matches or press conferences in wake of their Hillsborough reporting – and understandably so, many would say.

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But they continue to cover Liverpool FC from afar, making this stance on league appear even more petulant.

You may read The Sun – a lot of people still do – and be disappointed league is no longer getting covered.

Alternatively, you may think it’s trash and think league is better off without it. I respect both views.

But whether we like it or not, it is still the country’s biggest selling newspaper (and with a popular website).

If its league-following readers ditch the paper and opt for, say, The Mirror or the Daily Star – two nationals which give the sport great coverage – The Sun will lose out.

But regardless, there are two other losers here.

Rugby league’s national profile is, many agree, shrinking. Super League CEO Robert Elstone talks about breaking out of a bubble and creating stars.

While fans are well catered for with stories, podcasts, videos - by reporters, as well as the clubs and league themselves - none of that breaks out the bubble.

The wider the exposure, the better the chance of growing its profile – even if it is in a media outlet that splits opinion.

Is The Sun’s boycott a massive blow? No.

The same way it wasn’t when The Times stopped its coverage. But it’s the drip, drip, drip effect of falling out of the national sporting landscape.

Rugby league, I would argue, is also healthier when more reporters - with the clout of a national title - covering the sport with a critical eye, because they ask questions of the hierarchy.

I mentioned another loser out of all of this.

And this is where, on a human level, I declare an interest. The Sun’s rugby league writer is Gary Carter, a fine operator and a friend of mine.

He suffered a brain injury in a life-threatening attack in London a few years ago. Covering rugby league has not just been his job, it has been a big part of his rehabilitation. More than anything, I hope for his sake this is resolved.