RFL secures £53m five-year television contract

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The Independent Online

The game has finally announced its long-delayed television contract for continued coverage on Sky.

The satellite broadcaster's deal to screen Super League and internationals expired at the end of last season and the Rugby League twice rejected new offers from them. But with little more than two weeks to go before the start of the Super League season, a new five-year contract has been confirmed.

Sky will be paying a total of £53m, of which £5m is for internationals and will go into the game's central funds rather than to Super League clubs. That compares with the £46m the last contract was worth. "To increase our overall take in a falling market is a major step forward for our game," an RFL spokesman said.

Sky will continue to screen live games on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as the Tri-Nations tournament which is scheduled for the next three years, but the deal does not include the World Cup which is planned for Australia in 2008.

The League expects to complete its negotiations with the BBC soon for continued coverage of the Challenge Cup as well as secondary rights to internationals and some Super League games and play-offs.

Warrington have allowed two of their players, the New Zealand-born forward Matt Sturm and the young centre Richard Varkulis to go to Rochdale on a month's loan.

The pair will not be able to play in the Hornets' Challenge Cup tie against Dinamo Moscow on Sunday but the club's new coach, Bobbie Goulding, sees them as major additions to his squad for the National League Two season and hopes they can stay on after the initial loan period.

The Warrington captain, Leigh Briers, has been told he can resume full training after recovering from a broken wrist.

Toa Kohe-Love and Karl Pratt will both get the chance to stake a claim for places in Bradford's side for the World Club Challenge when they play in a friendly against Wakefield tonight. Pratt and Kohe-Love, who will be making his Bulls debut, have both recovered from shoulder operations.

The Wigan and Great Britain prop, Terry O'Connor, has been told he might not be able to use the JJB Stadium as planned this Sunday for his testimonial against the London Broncos. The match could be transferred to the much smaller Orrell ground because of fears for the JJB pitch.