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Rugby League

Sky extends Super League deal to 2016


Sky Sports has agreed to continue screening and funding Super League for another five years, but action from the Championship is not part of the new deal.

The successful negotiations, which are understood to have been completed before Sky's fellow Murdoch company News International ran into its current crop of troubles, give the competition stability through to the end of the 2016 season, which will be Sky's 21st as the game's main broadcast partners.

Under the terms of the new contract, Sky will screen up to 70 Super League matches, play-offs, internationals and the biggest games from Australia.

"Our partnership with Sky Sports has been an important factor in the growth of the game," said the Rugby League's chairman, Richard Lewis, yesterday. "The outcome clearly demonstrates that rugby league is a highly prized and valuable broadcast property."

No figures have been released by either party, but the new contract is understood to represent a 12 per cent increase on the £1.2m per season each club currently gets from Sky. In the present economic climate and by comparison with some other sports, that looks like a good result for the game, while the five-year time-span gives it a degree of security that it has not enjoyed previously.

The downside for subscribers is that Sky is dropping its coverage of the semi-professional Co-operative Championship, after screening live Thursday night games for the last four seasons. That option is set to be taken up by the smaller subscription channel, Premier Sport, which already has the rights to Australia's leading competition, the National Rugby League.

Matt Diskin will miss the rest of the season with Bradford after opting for surgery on his troublesome shoulder. The hooker had been trying to play on through the pain, but has found it too much.

The Wigan coach, Michael Maguire, has the luxury of a virtually fully fit squad competing for selection in Saturday's Cup semi-final against St Helens. With Sam Tomkins and Paul Prescott passed fit, only Stuart Fielden is out of contention. "It's like a game at training, with everyone vying for positions," Maguire said.

Harlequins centre David Howell has been banned for six matches after being found guilty of biting Catalan Dragons scrum-half Remy Marginet in the last minute of Quins' 48-22 defeat in Perpignan on Saturday.