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Stobart Super League

SLTV were at this week's launch of the Stobart Super League 2012. We got the views of some of the Captains and Coaches ahead of the first round.

It's new, it's here, it's sport as it should be -- welcome to Stobart Super League 2012.
Starting on Friday night, Europe's top Rugby League clubs will play the first of 27 captivating rounds building towards a gripping play-off series and an epic title-deciding Grand Final at the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford, on Saturday October 6.

The format may be familiar but 2012 will see Super League take its reputation for innovation to new levels with a wealth of new features that will enrich the experience and enjoyment of players, supporters and TV viewers alike.

From modern, state-of-the-art facilities which put the comfort of the paying spectator first, and subtle rule changes that allow the players to better express their skill and athleticism, to new clubs, new players and a new venue for the Magic Weekend, Stobart Super League 2012 promises to be a year to remember.

Speaking at the official season launch at Old Trafford, Manchester, on Wednesday February 1, Super League Chairman Richard Lewis outlined his excitement at the start of the competition’s journey with new title sponsors, the Stobart Group.

“I’m thrilled and delighted to welcome Stobart aboard and am confident this partnership will prove to be a success for both Super League and the Stobart Group,” said Lewis.

“To have a FTSE 250 company and a recognised Superbrand as title sponsors is a great coup which will allow the sport to elevate its visibility and profile to new levels.

“The multi-dimensional, marketing-led approach of the sponsorship contract testifies to the confidence the clubs have in themselves and the Super League competition and they are to be congratulated on their innovative approach.

“That innovation extends throughout the competition on many levels and has created a palpable sense of anticipation across the country as the big kick off approaches.

“There are so many highlights to look forward to in 2012, not least The Magic Weekend which this year takes place at the superbly appointed Etihad Stadium in Manchester, where fans can expect to see sporting rivalry at its best.

“The sport’s continued investment in facilities is evidenced by the opening of Langtree Park in St Helens and the City of Salford Stadium, two splendid venues which will enhance the competition.

“The improving stock of stadia within Super League demonstrates the value of licensing and offers extra incentive to those other clubs who have plans to develop new homes of their own.

“Licensing has also enabled Widnes Vikings to reclaim their place in Super League after a six-year absence and I would like to extend a warm welcome to their Chairman Steve O’Connor, Coach Denis Betts and his new-look team.

“Widnes join a competition which continues to grow from strength to strength with bumper crowds and very healthy audiences on television, where the sport will be portrayed in an even more exciting manner in 2012.

“This is the first year of our record-breaking five-year broadcasting deal with Sky Sports, who for the first time will showcase the thrills and spills of Stobart Super League live on Monday evenings between May and August.

“The BBC Super League Show is also relaunching for 2012 with a new format and a more regular timeslot which will enable more people than ever before to regularly watch sport as it should be played.”

The 2012 Stobart Super League season kicks off on Friday night (February 3) when Widnes host Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in front of the Sky Sports cameras and champions Leeds Rhinos begin their title defence at home to Hull Kingston Rovers. Both matches kick off at 8.00pm.

On Saturday, the Sky Sports cameras move to the City of Salford Stadium where the City Reds face Castleford Tigers (6.00) and the newly-renamed London Broncos take on St Helens at the Twickenham Stoop (3.00).

Sundays sees Hull FC entertain Warrington Wolves (3.00), Wigan Warriors play host to Huddersfield Giants (3.00) and Bradford Bulls play Catalan Dragons at Odsal (3.00).

SO WHAT IS NEW FOR 2012 IN STOBART SUPER LEAGUE?

TV deal

This the first year of a record-breaking five-year broadcast contract with Sky Sports, whose investment in the sport has reached unprecedented levels.  Sky Sports will broadcast regular Monday night live action for the first time and show all the tries from each round every Sunday evening.

Title sponsor

After eight successful years with Engage Mutual, Super League has embraced an innovative and exciting marketing-led approach with new title sponsors Stobart. The deal will see the visibility and profile of the competition scale new heights as a fleet of trailers hits the road this week.

Stadiums

Super League will be enhanced by the presence of Langtree Park, St Helens, and the City of Salford Stadium. Catalan Dragons have also completed the redevelopment of Stade Gilbert Brutus, which comes online fully for the first time in 2012.

New-look BBC Super League Show

The BBC Super League show returns with a regular Monday slot in a new format and a new presenter in Tanya Arnold alongside Robbie Paul, Brian Noble and Super League players making guest appearances on the couch to review the weekend’s action.

Rule changes

A couple of subtle but significant amendments have been introduced which are designed to improve the sport as a spectacle and enhance the enjoyment of spectators, TV viewers and players. The key changes are:
•         A player coming into contact with the corner flag in the act of scoring a try will not now be deemed to be in touch.
•         Reduction in number of interchanges from 12  to 10 – puts more emphasis on stamina and gives players increased opportunities to apply their skills.

New Super League Club

2012 sees the return to Super League of Widnes Vikings, who successfully applied for a licence from the Co-operative Championship. Widnes have been gearing up for Super League for three years and will enter the competition with big expectations.

4g pitch

Widnes have become the first professional sports club in the UK to instal a state-of-the-art 4g pitch, the most technologically advanced playing surface in the world. The ‘i-pitch’ has been scientifically shown to be safer than traditional turf and is literally ‘ground-breaking’!

Magic Weekend venue

After previously been staged in Edinburgh and Cardiff, Magic Weekend will take place at Etihad Stadium, Manchester on May 26 and 27 when all seven Round 15 fixtures will take place at the home of Manchester City FC.

New name in London

London Broncos have reverted to their previous name and have big plans to promote themselves and the sport in the city.