Ulster Rugby returns to BBC Northern Ireland this season with live coverage of six of the province’s home matches in the inaugural United Rugby Championship.
The new three-year broadcast deal will also see the introduction of a new weekly TV programme – The Ulster Rugby Show – featuring a line-up of special guests and pundits taking a light-hearted look at the week’s action from the province and across the new tournament.
Every Ulster Rugby match in the United Rugby Championship will be available on BBC iPlayer 24 hours after each round with clips of the best action and tries on the BBC Sport NI website and social media channels.
The first live BBC Northern Ireland game televised will see Ulster take on Benetton at Kingspan Stadium on October 8th followed a week later by Ulster’s first game in the new league against South African opposition, the Sigma Lions, on October 15th.
Kicking off on September 24th, the United Rugby Championship will bring 12 teams from the PRO14 and South Africa’s top four franchises together to form a new 16 team league.
Peter Johnston, Director BBC Northern Ireland, added: “It is great news to have live rugby back on BBC television. We know how popular this will be with our audiences and I hope fans enjoy the range of coverage we have lined up during the season. We have always had a strong partnership with Ulster Rugby and this will be a new era for them with an exciting new competition – the United Rugby Championship. This deal is a fitting addition to our wide-ranging sports portfolio. We’ve already had a big summer of sport and now look forward to an action-packed autumn.”
Jonny Petrie, Ulster Rugby CEO said: “As we look forward to the United Rugby Championship getting started, we welcome the news that BBC NI will once again be broadcasting from Kingspan Stadium on match night: once again becoming part of the fabric of rugby in Northern Ireland. Not only will this allow more supporters to be part of the action and atmosphere under the Friday night lights but, through the likes of The Ulster Rugby Show, will offer our fans opportunities throughout the week to enjoy the latest action from the new season. I’m delighted to have been able to work with URC and BBC NI to get to this point, and I am looking forward to us working in strong partnership over the coming seasons to showcase the best of our sport.”
Additionally, S4C and BBC Cymru Wales will be the free-to-air home of the Welsh regions following a joint agreement to broadcast live matches from the United Rugby Championship.
Scrum V Live will return to the screen on Friday nights while Y Clwb Rygbi will return on Saturdays after the two broadcasters secured live and highlights rights to show matches from the United Rugby Championship, formerly known as the Guinness PRO14, for the next four years. Scrum V Live will show 18 matches on BBC Wales, with one game per round, while the Scrum V Sunday night highlights show will showcase the action from all the weekend’s matches.
On S4C, there will be 27 live matches on Y Clwb Rygbi, with one match per weekend, and two or three on some weekends. The Christmas and New Year derbies and the popular Judgement Day at the Principality Stadium will be live on either Scrum V or Y Clwb Rygbi. S4C’s coverage will also offer English language commentary on all its live games, via the red button service. There will also be full-match coverage of the regions’ other matches over the weekend on S4C.
The new competition, where the four Welsh regions take on the 12 best teams from Ireland, Scotland, Italy and South Africa, gets underway on Friday 24 September.
Rhuanedd Richards, Director of Content and Services, BBC Cymru Wales said: “This is a brilliant package of coverage for rugby fans over the next four years. It’s great news that viewers will be able to watch a range of games by tuning into Scrum V as well as Y Clwb Rygbi on S4C, both produced by our talented team at BBC Cymru Wales and all free to air. A brilliant addition for the rugby community which underlines our commitment to Welsh sport.”
Sue Butler, S4C Sports Commissioner, added: “S4C is looking forward to joining forces with BBC Cymru Wales to show the new United Rugby Championship on free-to-air television.
“We’ve been with the Welsh regions from the very start and with twenty seven games including the festive derbies and Judgement Day, our output and commitment are greater than ever.”
BBC Cymru Wales will be producing Y Clwb Rygbi for S4C.