With video: McManus hits back at Super League critics and says new Sky deal will help clubs secure brightest talent

St Helens Star: McManus flanked by Saints players and coach Nathan Brown McManus flanked by Saints players and coach Nathan Brown

EAMONN McManus has banged the drum for the future of British rugby league in what could be seen as a direct riposte to vocal criticism by some rival club owners.

Wigan’s Ian Lenagan and Salford’s Marwan Koukash both publicly criticised the Rugby Football League over the new broadcasting deal with Sky and the game’s re-structuring plans.

But McManus – who has not been shy of criticising the game’s governing body in the past – used a press conference to announce a new four-year contract for star full back Jonny Lomax as a platform to salute the change.

He claimed securing Lomax, 23, is ‘tangible evidence’ of Super League's ability to retain its leading talent thanks to the new television deal.

He said: “Clearly we hold different opinions (to Koukash and Lenagan) and I think mine is based upon fact.

“I’m looking back on the history of the game – and I defy anyone to come with a period when we have provided solvency at a stroke, stability at a stroke and whereby we can plan financially for the future.

“I do not see how anyone can criticise it to any degree without coming up with a better alternative. We are dealing with reality.”

McManus, who supports the idea of restructuring the salary cap to create space for a marquee player allowance, added: “The re-signing of Jonny is a ringing, tangible endorsement to the strength of the game and the strides it has made in recent months.

“Our very best of British talent is committing long-term to club and the sport.

“I have been involved in the game 14 years and I have never been more confident about the future of our club and the game as a whole as I am today.

“The new television deal will provide a 63 per cent uplift in income for Super League clubs and every level of the sport will benefit directly.

“It gives everybody the confidence to plan ahead to make the sport a leading international and national sport.”

The conference, which saw McManus flanked by coach Nathan Brown, Lomax, and eight other British players who have either signed for or agreed new deals at Saints, appeared a clear attempt by the chairman to put both the game and the club on the front foot.

Negativity has hindered Saints both on and off the pitch in the past two seasons, with the quality of the team and a lack of cladding at Langtree Park becoming sore points for supporters.

With a significantly strengthened squad and the cladding issue now addressed, Saints chiefs appear intent on creating a mood of optimism.

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