Attracting younger fans is key to ensuring Super League has long-term future – Robert Elstone

welcome back: Warrington Wolves' Chris Hill is sent off by referee Chris Kendall after just 22 minutes for a tackle on Wigan Warriors' Sam Powell during the opening night of Super League at the DW Stadium. Report: Page 22.' Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
welcome back: Warrington Wolves' Chris Hill is sent off by referee Chris Kendall after just 22 minutes for a tackle on Wigan Warriors' Sam Powell during the opening night of Super League at the DW Stadium. Report: Page 22.' Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
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As the new Betfred Super League season got underway on Thursday night, chief executive Robert Elstone admitted attracting “younger audiences” is central in its bid to enhance the competition.

Wigan Warriors beat Warrington Wolves in the opening fixture at DW Stadium with a Grand Final rematch between champions St Helens and Salford Red Devils coming up on Friday evening plus Hull KR hosting Wakefield Trinity.

Now in its 25th campaign, Super League has undergone a rebrand during the off-season working with Stu Watson who helped give a fresh look to the Premier League in 2016.

With creative director Lee Hicken, they have also launched a new weekly programme called Inside Super League on Sky Sports who are also showing We Play League, an access-all-areas four-part series.

Given the current broadcast deal with Sky Sports expires at the end of 2021, Super League is keen to showcase itself ahead of forthcoming negotiations and Elstone – who took over in June 2018 – believes their bid to win a younger generation of fans is key.

“The game is in really good hands from a creative point of view,” he said. “I’ve always felt from day one that we need to be a bit more relevant and break into younger audiences.

“Lee was probably one of the first people I met; I got introduced to him through a football agent, and it was the best hour I’ve had in rugby league for a long time.

“Instantly I knew I had someone here who got what it meant to be a league fan and a northerner.

“I put a lot faith in him and he’s more than delivered. Stu came in with great credentials, a really good relationship with Sky and both have invested hugely.”

Elstone added: “As primary partner for 30 years I’m delighted Sky is now seeing a modern, refreshed and more insightful, relevant Super League.

“We’ve taken that responsibility into our own hands, producing that content and Sky are giving it a tick.”