Dave Craven: Late switching of games not the fault of broadcasters

Thursday night rugby league between Huddersfield and Castleford.

Thursday night rugby league between Huddersfield and Castleford.

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I AM at a loss to understand the growing anger about an alleged negative impact of Thursday evening televised matches.

Don’t get me wrong, Huddersfield Giants’ game with Castleford Tigers the other night was as dull a Super League fixture as I have seen over the last decade and so there was certainly plenty of negatives to be drawn there.

I was definitely a little angry at having to sit through it all and I got in for nothing so I pity those who had to pay to witness such large dollops of dross.

But it is the alarm over the increasing practice of clubs changing fixtures that has confused me.

For those who play on a Sunday and then again Thursday they do, for player welfare reasons, rightly have the option of changing the day they play that first game.

So, for example, Hull FC recently brought forward their game at Salford Red Devils to Saturday (February 28) before taking on Leeds Rhinos at the KC in front of the Sky cameras on a Thursday (March 5). Similarly, Castleford switched their game with Wigan Warriors from last Sunday to last Friday in readiness for that Giants tie, though you’d have scarcely known it given the way they then capitulated 22-0.

Castleford announced that decision on Tuesday, February 17, barely a fortnight beforehand.

Understandably, it was not great news for fans who had planned to attend on the Sunday and, for whatever reason, could not do so for the re-arranged slot.

You can see why there may be some chagrin at such a late change and there is the same sort of displeasure at Warrington Wolves opting to do likewise for their home game with Wakefield Trinity, originally scheduled for Sunday, April 12 but now being played a day earlier.

This is all well and good but my argument surrounds why some people are blaming the broadcasters – and principally their introduction of Thursday night fixtures last year – for all the problems concerning rescheduling.

The 2015 fixture list was actually announced to the public on October 19 last year, earlier than ever before, and you would imagine the clubs would have been au fait with it long before then, too.

Indeed, at the same time and unlike in the past, all games set to be televised on Thursdays were also included right through until the final regular round 23 when Hull host Wigan on July 23.

So clubs have had no reason whatsoever to leave it so late to then change the fixture.

Any club bemoaning the fact they would only have three days to prepare for a game from Sunday to Thursday would have known this fact around five months ago so why the sudden decision to change things around sometimes less than three weeks before a match is due to go ahead?

One of the results of all this is that there does tend to be fewer Sunday afternoon fixtures.

There was just one last week when Warrington hosted Hull KR and this time around only a couple with Hull KR entertaining Catalan Dragons tomorrow and Salford welcoming Wakefield.

One of the sport’s traditional slots is perhaps losing its strength. That said, the sport at Super League level is now being played regularly four days a week – Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – with live broadcasts on three of those if Catalans are at home on the Saturday.

Granted, Thursday night games do have their problems – attendances remain a worry and it is far from ideal for club’s corporate business – but please don’t blame the broadcasters.

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