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A short history of rugby league on TV: from Richard Madeley to multiscreen

Rugby league returns this week with a glut of live games. There was a time when viewers only had an hour with Madeley

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required

Only a few days to go until your rugby league famine is over. All eight of this weekend’s NRL games will be broadcast live in the UK. And, if that does not take your fancy, Sky are showing a re-run of Great Britain’s win over Australia from 2006 on Friday night as well as six Summer Bash classics over the weekend. It’s a far cry from the days when the only live rugby league on British TV was the odd second half on Grandstand.

Having shown league matches on their flagship sports show since the late 1950s, the BBC decided to drop championship rugby league in 1980, opening the way for ITV. The inspirationally titled “Rugby League” began in March 1981 in the last slot before midnight on Mondays, with a jazz funk theme tune and Bob Hall presenting in front of a green screen backdrop in a Leeds studio.

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