Chairman praises 'first class' sponsors
Super League Chairman Richard Lewis has paid a personal tribute to the competition’s title sponsors Engage Mutual Assurance ahead of the seventh Engage Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The Harrogate-based company is stepping down as title sponsors following Saturday’s match between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos, closing an exciting and fulfilling chapter in one of the sport’s most successful partnerships.
“Our relationship with Engage has been first class and I would like to place on record my thanks and appreciation to their Chief Executive Andrew Haigh and all his team for their wonderful support over the last seven years,” said Lewis in a speech at the 2011 Engage Super League Man of Steel dinner.
“Through their sponsorship Engage have played an important role in the evolution of the competition and they have been instrumental in creating some wonderful memories for hundreds of thousands of people.
“I know our relationship with Engage Mutual will not end this weekend – strong friendships always endure.”
Super League is currently at various stages of negotiations with several potential new title sponsors, many of whom will be at Old Trafford on Saturday when the competition’s top two clubs do battle in front of a bumper crowd for the 2011 title.
In his speech, Lewis said Rugby League had once again demonstrated its robustness throughout the 2011 season, when clubs had been able to weather the economic downturn with the help of the governing body.
“Once again, the Super League clubs were assisted in riding the financial storm with the help of record levels of disbursements, up from £11.3m in 2001 to £29.6m this year – a 162 per cent increase,” he said.
“The distribution of an unprecedented level of funding from sources such as broadcasting contracts and sponsorship, allied to some sound business practices by the clubs themselves, has allowed Super League to continue to grow in stature and I would like to thank to all the club officials who continue to strive for excellence on a daily basis.
“Excellence is a very subjective measure, of course, but Rugby League – unlike other sports – is well placed to measure how excellent its clubs are through Super League licensing, a process to which all clubs were subjected this year.
“It is because of licensing that Crusaders were able to grasp – albeit belatedly – that they could not continue in Super League. Whilst this is a setback we should not forget that in their three rollercoaster years they did make the play-offs.
“In that time participation in Welsh Rugby League more than tripled, breaking through the 7,000 mark, the Welsh Assembly decided to invest heavily in joint hosting the World Cup and we shall have, almost certainly, two ambitious clubs in the Co-operative Championship One competition next season.
“The expansion of the sport in Wales continues and I am confident it will gain even more momentum over the coming years under the guidance of Wales Rugby League – themselves now recently made full members of the international federation.
“The stability of licensing has enabled Catalan Dragons to deliver some success on the pitch as well as complete the modernisation of their stadium. Super League in France is very well represented indeed – the growth of Super League and Rugby League in general continues unabated.
“And it is because of licensing that Widnes Vikings, under their Chairman Steve O’Connor, have been able to formulate and implement the strategies that will see them take their place in Super League in 2012. The licensing process has helped Widnes to strengthen their organisation and I am sure they will be a valuable addition to Super League next season.
“Licensing has also played a positive role in the improvements we are seeing in stadia in our existing strong areas – particularly in the North West. Who would have thought when Super League was first conceived that in 2012 we would have such a collection of outstanding facilities?
“It is good to see the work taking place at St Helens and Salford City Reds, both of whom will move into splendid new facilities next year -providing the level of comfort and accommodation our supporters, players, sponsors, broadcasters and the competition itself deserve.”
Lewis said 2011 would be remembered as the year when record numbers of young, home grown players featured in Super League, a trend which has been accelerating over the last five years.
“One hundred and one players aged 21 or under played in Super League in 2011, including 39 British teenagers who made their debuts,” he said.
“That experience will stand them all in good stead and I have no doubts they will enrich the quality of Super League in 2012.”
Tickets for the 2011 Engage Super League Grand Final, St Helens v Leeds Rhinos cost from just £21 and are available by calling the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113 or by visiting www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk