RFL steps in and secures future of Rugby at The Odsal Stadium


The Rugby Football League (RFL) has announced the acquisition of Odsal Stadium in a bid to ensure the long-term future of one of the sport’s most historic venues.

The League, which is the governing body of rugby league in England, has paid an undisclosed sum at what it describes as “market value” which will allow Super League team Bradford Bulls to remain at their home stadium. Ownership of Odsal by the RFL will safeguard the stadium at a time when the economic downturn has seen the proposed development of a sporting village concept put on hold.

“This arrangement is absolutely the right thing to do because it safeguards the future of one of the sport’s most famous stadia,” said RFL chairman Richard Lewis. “Odsal is famous throughout the world and it would be a tragedy were the venue to be lost to the sport in the way that other evocative rugby league venues have already been lost. We have paid market value for the stadium and the Bulls will pay market value rental to the RFL to play their home fixtures at Odsal.”

Bradford Bulls chairman, Peter Hood, added:  “This is excellent news for Bradford Bulls, for the Bradford district and for the sport. Odsal is an iconic rugby league venue and is strategically important to the Bradford district, located as it is at the head of the city’s principal access corridor. The sale to the RFL safeguards our immediate future and keeps all the options open once the economy recovers from recession.”

Odsal held a long-standing world record for rugby league’s biggest attendance when 102,569 fans watched a Challenge Cup final replay between Halifax and Warrington in 1954. This record was eclipsed following the opening of Stadium Australia in Sydney in 2000.

Audiences on the increase as Racing attendances hit record high in 2011

More people attended British horse racing events than ever before in 2011 as total attendance at race courses topped 6.15 million for the first time according to the Racecourse Association.

The previous record was set in 2004, with a more stable economy, but the latest results exceed it by 100,000 visits. The latest figures were reportedly helped by good weather and more aggressive promotion of the sport by racecourses, along with other initiatives designed to take racing to a broader audience. The sport saw its highest attendances in July when over a million adults went racing to 147 fixtures. Children are not included in the numbers as they are allowed in free at almost all race meetings. Of the 60 racecourses around Britain, 37 saw a rise in average attendance and improvements were witnessed in most months of the year. In April 2011, 26 racecourses participated in a ‘try racing for free’ offer organised by Racing for Change, an industry promotional body. The activity resulted in an additional 63,000 adults through the turnstiles, many of whom were new customers or lapsed race goers. In October, Ascot hosted the first-ever QIPCO British Champions Day, attracting over 26,000 visitors and saw competition between many of the best horses in the world, including Frankel. The sport’s growing popularity on the track was also been mirrored in TV viewing figures with both Channel 4 and the BBC reporting increases in their audience numbers. In 2011, 9 million viewers saw the Grand National, an increase of one million on the previous year.

Stephen Atkin, Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association commented: “I am very pleased to see racecourse attendance on the up for a third year in a row and to break the previous record is fantastic.”Financially it is a very difficult time for people at the moment, so it is a vindication of the exemplary work.

Premier League make history with their first ever free-to-air Game.


Television viewers in the UK will next month be able to watch the first free-to-air Barclays Premier League game in the 20-year history of the division.

Premier League broadcast partner ESPN has announced a promotion which will see all of its content available on a free-to-air basis from February 3-6, including league leader Manchester City’s clash with Fulham on February 4. ESPN’s Free Weekend, which is being sponsored by Nokia Lumia, will make ESPN and ESPN HD available to all Sky, TopUp TV and BT Vision subscribers in the UK and Ireland. Additionally, the channel will be available for free to the 10 million UK households who have the subscription-free digital TV service Freeview, meaning that in total some 20 million UK households will have free access to the channel.

All live English top flight football has been broadcast on pay-television since the Premier League began in 1992. ESPN’s Free Weekend will also offer football from Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s 1.Bundesliga, along with action from the National Basketball Association (NBA), men’s ATP tennis and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).


Breeders Cup gallops to landmark media rights partnership with NBC


The Breeders’ Cup has agreed a landmark media rights partnership with NBC Sports Group that will ensure the first live primetime broadcast of horse racing showpiece the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The multi-year deal will commence with the 2012 Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Santa Anita Park, California on November 2-3. NBC and NBC Sports Network will combine to present nine-and-a-half hours of live coverage of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, including live primetime coverage of the US$5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on NBC on November 3 from 20:00-21:00 ET. The Breeders’ Cup returns to NBC where it was broadcast from its inception in 1984 through 2005.

The Breeders’ Cup, thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious global racing event, consists of 15 races held over two days with over $25 million in purse money at stake. NBC Sports has secured the rights following the end of the organisation’s partnership with ABC/ESPN.


RFL/Stobart Drive on to secure Title Sponsorship


The Rugby Football League (RFL) has secured a new title sponsor for the Super League in the shape of logistics company Stobart Group.

Stobart, which is the principal shirt sponsor of Super League newcomer Widnes and has naming rights to the club’s Halton Stadium, will take over from Engage Mutual Assurance as the top partner of the English game’s elite competition. Engage ended its seven-year sponsorship of Super League at the end of last season.

A RFL statement read: “The RFL confirms that Stobart Group has agreed heads of terms to secure title naming rights to rugby league’s Super League.” The length of the new deal has not been announced with further details set to be released at a news conference on Wednesday.

The new Super League season begins on February 3.

Premier Inn & WCCC partner on redevelopment plans.

£10 million redevelopment plan for Worcestershire’s New Road ground
Worcestershire County Cricket Cub is planning a £10million redevelopment of their New Road ground, including a build a 120-bedroom Premier Inn hotel and restaurant.
Whitbread, Premier Inn’s parent company, has submitted a planning application and is investing £7.5million in the hotel and restaurant. The Club is also investing more than £2.5million to create new conference and executive facilities at the ground.

SPL Safe Standing Pilot Scheme attracting attention in the Premier League

Aston Villa looks at ‘safe-standing area’ at Villa Park
Aston Villa is looking into the possibility of a safe-standing area at Villa Park in a bid to boost attendances and improve the atmosphere.
Chief executive Paul Faulkner was encouraged by the reaction when he broached the subject with fans at a supporters’ consultation group.
Villa’s interest comes after the Scottish Premier League said they will consider requests for pilot safe-standing schemes.