Teatime slot bites the dust as League joins the Monday Night Football club

From tonight, Super League will attempt to cash in on a tried and tested spot in schedule

The Premier League has it. American football has it. In Australia, both rugby league and Rules have it. It is Monday Night Football and, in a new departure for Sky and the game in this country, from tonight, Super League will have it.

"It's such a strong brand," says Neville Smith, the Australian who has produced Sky's coverage since the days before Super League was born.

Smith is the man who has pushed the idea of replacing Sky's previous Saturday teatime slot with regular Mondays – at least until the start of the new football season. He went first to his bosses at Sky, then to the Rugby League, and finally to the Super League chief executives. It was not a hard sell. "I couldn't believe it," says Smith. "They almost gave me a round of applause."

The upshot was that rugby league will occupy one of the network's prime slots through the summer, except when the pattern is disrupted by the Magic Weekend, representative games and cup semi-finals.

"Apart from that, the idea is that people will be able to look forward to a fixed spot for two-and-a-half, three months," Smith says. It is, he insists, that desire for stability, rather than the failure of what is often perceived as the Saturday teatime "graveyard shift" that has driven the change.

Sky does not put out audience figures, but it is claiming a massive 45 per cent increase this season – and that applies to Fridays and Saturdays.

Of course, the change will not suit everyone and will look to some like Sky calling the tune a little too loudly. Monday night is hardly the most family-friendly time of the week.

That is why Sky has chosen to announce all its Monday fixtures in advance, rather than laying itself open to the charge of messing the paying supporter around.

It also says it has tried to keep journey times down to a reasonable level. You would not want to tackle the length of the M62 on a Monday and then again on a Friday.

It is certainly starting with a strong fixture, if not a particularly local one, in Leeds versus St Helens; other goodies in store include a Hull derby on 22 July and Saints versus Warrington to wrap up the season within the season on 6 August.

The danger is that with some clubs committed to Fridays and Saturdays, regardless of television, the bill of fare on Sundays could be weaker than ever.

Rugby league was the first sport in Britain to switch wholesale to Sundays and it brought some definite advantages by offering live sport to Monday morning papers and, especially, to local radio.

Smith hopes, however, that Monday nights will attract enough of a new public to outweigh any losses. That was the view of Saints' Jon Wilkin, one of the most articulate of modern players, at a fans' forum this week – little to lose and quite possibly a good deal to gain.

Any new Monday night viewers will not see anything radically different from Sky's usual rugby league output. There is likely to be more punditry on the pitch, though, a style of presentation into which the broadcaster has so far only dipped its toes cautiously, but which is a conspicuous aspect of Australian coverage.

"The action on the pitch will always be the main thing. There will be some changes, but a lot could depend on the weather," says Smith. Stout waterproof shoes the order of the day at Headingley, then.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...