The Rugby Football League’s official press release, which reveals the 2019 fixtures, correctly describes the opening night’s showdown between St Helens and Wigan Warriors as a blockbuster.
But why choose Thursday to launch the new Betfred Super League campaign? Surely the people who run the game know that fans of most clubs don’t relish turning out on this particular day of the week for a variety of reasons.
Leaving aside the fact that the game will be played at the end of January and possibly in wintry conditions, people will still have a day’s work to undertake both before the match and after it.
Admittedly, as it is a derby encounter, most of the supporters will only have a short journey to the stadium but what about those living many miles from the ground?
Both clubs have fans in this category and no doubt some will decide to sit over a roaring fire at home and watch it on the TV, or go to a local pub where is s being screened.
Friday, Saturday or Sunday would, as far as I’m concerned, have been a better bet to launch the season and don’t forget when Wigan entertained their neighbours on a Thursday night in the middle of summer last year the attendance was a below average 16,047 - and one of the lowest gates in recent years for a derby encounter at a ground which holds around 25,000.spectators
Sky, on the other hand, make a massive contribution to the well-being of the sport and will have had a major say in when the season starts.
But I doubt if anybody at Red Hall raised an objection to a Thursday launch in the light of a new TV deal being on the agenda further down the line.
At the same time, I don’t want to see any empty seats at the Totally Wicked Stadium on the night in question, which wouldn’t be good for the image of the sport, and I would suggest both clubs - and the TV company - go out of their way to ensure the sold out signs are up weeks in advance of the fixture by launching a vigorous pre-match promotion campaign.