Into its third round of action, Gallagher Premiership Rugby returns to the full ‘Limelight status’ after the RWC finale last weekend. It can stand clearly under the lights, so to speak.
Three times that clubs have been without their representative players, all either completing or about to finalize commitments with their national sides; England ended the proceedings with a delightful Bronze medal. Not as highly placed as some will have dreamed of, yet respectable. And now squad members will be adjusting their schedules to match club’s needs.
Ending on a high 🌹
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) October 30, 2023
Though previous results, local derby games and fixtures have already drawn in many fans desiring more live-action sport. This season has already laid a good foundation because On-demand or streamed games is one thing, it just can’t replace the anticipation and emotions felt across 80 minutes of pulsating performances on the field. Across the board, 30 men start each one of five regular encounters [now 15 completed] over the full 26-week calendar. Half of a calendar year, before they are free to represent all over again.
Substitute players, promoted from Premiership Rugby Cup squads to replace the likes of Owen Farrell and Agustin Creevy, did themselves proud. Their vacant positions were filled for Saracens and Sale Sharks. Hardly a beat has been lost, with coaching groups adapting well to use of academy graduates and squad members deep from within the ranks. Some even short-term roles, to ‘fill the gaps’.
And they have done so admirably.
What fans now ask for is a ‘plate full of rugby’ to ensure there is no empty void. Those who aim to ‘fill their stockings; prior to the silly season, will enjoy Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday afternoons relaxing with a good dose of English union. Competing to gain and retain an audience alongside league, football, and ball sports like NFL, Gaelic Football and indoor Futsal. It’s a crowded market, so Gallagher must fund a wider publicity campaign – the benefactors being the clubs, who need a sustainable revenue stream for the long winter months.
Gallagher Premiership Rugby returns to the full ‘Limelight status’ after the RWC finale last weekend
Premiership Rugby content has been favourable, with a good selection of online channels that combined, complement much of the social media activity. Overshadowed to a degree by the World Cup, across the opening rounds it has been building, to this stage when Gallagher Premiership Rugby returns to full blast.
The party has started at Sandy Park 🥳
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) October 28, 2023
Volume turned right up, unobscurred by the largest four-yearly men’s tournament, it has closed its shop window, only for others like the United Rugby Championship and French Top14 resuming last weekend.
All three now are set to get back into full operation, totalling eight URC, seven Top14, and five Premiership games. 20 are scheduled over Friday to Sunday timeslots, with some fixtures overlapping, the choose from. At times a tough call, it is scheduled that it can seem incredibly divisive. While a negative if all three domestic leagues had considered the other, but why should they? It is a deep, yet narrow market. Similar start times mean the viewer has the power to watch some of one game, and then look at another. Whoever holds their attention, gains the viewership.
Granted that the European calendar is also fulfilled, when December 9 opening weekend halts Round Nine of the Premiership, Round Eight of the URC, and Week 10 of the French Top14. So plenty to enjoy before the cross-competition rivalries come into play for the Investec Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
🚨 @ChampionsCup Announcement 🚨
8️⃣ Top eight in league table qualify
🛡 Shields no longer used for qualification
🥇 A URC Challenge Cup winner can still qualify
💥 Shields now decided by games against regional rivals
— BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) October 17, 2023
For now, it is more familiar foes that clubs must deal with. Less within the Gallagher Premiership mind you, and soon several sides will play the reverse, home-and-away matches. This will bring out the loyalty factor of some regions. Pitching up to the opposition grounds, even fearing the local drinking establishments, it occurs across England, Ireland, Scotland, and France too. Plus include those touring South African fans now seeking out local franchises to witness; think DHL Stormers visiting the Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium this Friday night. Good for those who continue to plan out their calendar well in advance.
Attracting a newer audience is always an ideal for any domestic league though. Increasing broadcast figures is the ultimate metric though. Proving your domestic league can retain, and then grow an audience is primary to a more successful competition. Spread over long seasons, the draw of individuals can assist in that engagement – so here, add back into the playing pool stars from the knockout phases, semi-finalists, and then ultimately the few victorious Cup finalists. Star player’s like Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard, and others will line up from November for their Gallagher Premiership Rugby return.
Until then, Round Four will see the below list of match-ups:
The big clashes keep coming 🔥
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 1, 2023
A select complement to other clashes from the South of France, Pau host Toulouse. Then across to Stadio di Monigo, where Benetton see the Emirates Lions from Johannesburg visit. In Ireland, a handful of games across Saturday and Sunday make Gaelic fans content, while Scarletts versus Cardiff Blues offers some cross-border interest.
The geography of Europe only adds to the range. England has a strong underbelly of rugby union aficionados. Many focused on their own clubs’ interests, yet the entire Premiership Rugby system requires a boost before more financial instability could force some to restrict spending and thus, salary levels. Inflation does not always carry over into over-priced contracts, so the participating men are aware that costs are increasing at a rate higher than incomes.
In a political sense, the game can never be left to fall. Support is always on hand, it is just which clubs are valued as impermeable. And which could be sacrificial? Too difficult a question to pose here though, especially when the game needs be celebrated.
So while it is still pertinent, follow your favourite club. Watch their home fixtures, travel overland or offshore to cheer them on, and support the endeavours of your local or your selected Premiership team. It is just the start, and now the Rugby World Cup has been decided, it can operate unimpeded by the global event. ‘Standing in the limelight’ again, the Premiership is ready to step up and show its worth. An endorsement for the whole season, one where many of the World’s best will run out for English rugby football fans to applaud.
“Main photo credit courtesy of Premiership Rugby facebook“