St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus has accused the Rugby Football League and Sky television of insulting his club.
McManus has reacted angrily to Sky’s decision to show the League Leaders’ Shield being packed away in its box by an RFL official and taken back down the tunnel at Langtree Park during the closing stages of Saints’ defeat by Warrington on September 4.
The trophy would have been presented to captain Paul Wellens on the pitch had his club clinched top spot with a victory.
McManus believes the actions “deliberately goaded” his club’s supporters and, in the match programme for Friday night’s play-off tie against Castleford, praised them for not reacting.
“I admire the restraint which you showed when our club was deliberately insulted by the infantile, stage-managed exit of the League Leaders’ Shield down our tunnel two weeks ago,” McManus wrote.
“Just weeks after Widnes ‘fans’ brought shame on our game by invading the pitch in front of a national TV audience, the very bodies whose job it is to promote and govern our game deliberately and irresponsibly goaded our fans in what was an already naturally highly-charged atmosphere. Well done to you all for not reacting.
“I couldn’t help but compare this latest insult to that in 2007 when we won the League Leaders Shield. On that occasion we were not allowed to display the Shield as it was considered provocative to Wigan fans. How beautifully ironic.”
Neville Smith, executive producer of Sky Sports Rugby League, defended the coverage.
“At no time was it an attempt to humiliate or upset St.Helens or their fans,” Smith said. “The record of the St Helens club is a proud one and beyond mocking. The chairman Eamonn McManus is one of the finest administrators in the game and he leads a magnificent club.
“In the same situation and in the same context, the same shot would have applied to any club, be it Leeds, Warrington, London Broncos or Wigan (which of course would delight St.Helens fans). It is simply telling the story and tapping into the emotions and passions of our great sport.”
The League Leaders Shield was presented by RFL chairman Brian Barwick to injured St Helens forward Jon Wilkin before kick-off of the Castleford game on Friday night.