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BSkyB, BT clash on rugby rights

September 13, 2012

Yesterday, BT heralded its breakthrough into major pay-sports rights saying it had signed up the English Premiership and that from 2014-15 it would also have exclusive rights to games English clubs played in Europe.  Late afternoon, Sky announced it had signed a new deal with European Rugby Cup for those European games.

It seems the two bodies Premiership Rugby (which organises the Premiership) and ERC (which organises the Heineken Cup) have signed the same deal with different broadcasters.

ERC insisted that Premier Rugby’s European deal with BT is “in breach both of International Rugby Board regulations and of a mandate from the ERC Board itself. European club rugby’s six participant unions have granted the authority to sell broadcast rights to its tournaments solely to ERC. It was unanimously agreed at an ERC Board meeting on 6 June 2012 that ERC would conclude a new four-year agreement with Sky Sports. Premiership Rugby was party to that decision.”

Premiership Rugby argues that ERC’s right to negotiate broadcast deals on behalf of unions is only valid until 2014.

BSkyB says its extended contract starts in the autumn of 2014, after the current deal, and will extend the long-standing relationship with the ERC to the end of the 2017-2018 season, a 15th year.

Under the new ERC deal, Sky Sports will continue to hold exclusive live rights to:

THE HEINEKEN CUP: Exclusive live matches from each of the first four rounds, plus all knock out stages and finals for a further four seasons, across the UK and Ireland.

AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP: Exclusive live coverage of matches in the opening rounds, knockout stages, both Semi-Finals and the Final across the UK and Ireland.

Announcing the extended deal, Barney Francis, Managing Director of Sky Sports, said: “This new deal with the ERC gives us live European Rugby for another four seasons.”

He continued: “We have been pleased to be partners with the ERC for over a decade and see their tournaments grow. This is Rugby of the highest quality and these competitions give our viewers over 60 live games across eight months.

“The Heineken Cup and Amlin Cup will continue to line up with our exclusive live coverage of the British & Irish Lions, England’s autumn internationals and the best Rugby from the southern hemisphere.”

ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath, said: “Over the past ten years Sky Sports has made a major contribution to the development of European club rugby and ERC is delighted to be able to extend our partnership for a further four seasons until 2018. Sky Sports innovative coverage and commitment has greatly enhanced the game in Europe and we look forward to working together over the next six seasons as the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup reaches new heights.”

It is an inauspicious start for BT’s £152 million (€190m) foray into exclusive sport coverage.

In June, BT Vision paid £738 million for the rights to screen 38 live Barclays Premier League football games for next season. Sky Sports will screen 116 live Premier League matches.

• BT’s output will be screened on a new BT Sports Channel, due to be launched next summer. Subscription details have yet to be determined.

• ESPN has lost its rights to both Premier League football and Aviva Premiership rugby.


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