Super League clubs set to get Sky money until June – but the Magic may be lost

SUPER League clubs are thought to be guaranteed to get their crucial Sky money, which keeps the competition going, until June

But when, or if, it gets restarted, expect a much-changed fixture list with boss Robert Elstone admitting Magic Weekend is likely to get moved or cancelled completely.

Rugby league’s shutdown will last until an undetermined date after the initial suspension until April 3 was moved back on Tuesday.

That has raised fears Sky, whose £200 million broadcasting deal keeps the 13-a-side code afloat, may pull out as they have nothing to show.

However, SunSport has learned the next quarterly installment of the contract – taking in April, May and June – is believed to be assured.

But when the sport gets back up and running again, the season is likely to be redrawn, with Elstone admitting talks with Manchester United will be needed on finding another date for the Grand Final.

He also conceded that Magic Weekend – currently scheduled for May 23 and 24 at Newcastle’s St James’ Park – is almost certain to move or vanish from the calendar completely.

Getting rid of ‘loop’ fixtures, the format of the Challenge Cup and even the future of England’s Ashes campaign against Australia are also on the table.

However, he vowed to get as many of the TV obligations completed.

Executive chairman Elstone said: “Magic hasn't been totally ruled out to date but we’re preparing for the fact that Magic may well be a casualty of this.

“It would be unwise not to think of an alternative, whether that’s at a later date in Newcastle or in a different format.

“Right now we haven't ruled it out and fixture planning is looking at the possibility it might happen. You might look at the probability of it happening as diminishing all the time, though.

“There's lots of work going on in terms of fixture planning and that involves pushing the season back, that's one of the options we're looking at.

“We have a Super League fixture list that involves Magic Weekend, loop fixtures and play-offs and all of these generate revenue for the clubs, the centre or both.

“We're doing all we can to protect that and one of the most material ways we can do that is by pushing back the end date of the season.

“The longer it goes on, the harder it will be to fulfil everything but we have a commitment to a certain number of games being on TV and we’ll do all we can to make sure we deliver on that.”

Elstone’s biggest job is negotiating a new TV deal from 2022 and work is still going on in preparation of talks starting.

But he admits he is in talks to make sure Sky will not pull the plug if their own business is struggling, so it would be ‘crazy’ to even bring it up now.

He added, while admitting the Inside Super League show has been abandoned: “Sky are looking at the implications of this on their business in the here and now, so it would be crazy to think we'll be talking in earnest in the very near future.

“Sky know there are some real material limitations in what we can and can’t do right now. Right now we’re unable to do anything in terms of meaningful content.

“While we have a close relationship we have to respect that Sky are looking at what this means for them. Our intention is to ensure we honour that Sky contract and fulfil our obligations, it's the most important thing we can do.”

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