European rugby TV rights war

The news about the TV war surrounding the Heineken Cup was a hot topic at the London Irish training ground this week.

Premier Rugby announced a big deal with BT to cover “future” European competitions, only for ERC to then announce on the same day, that Sky Sports had, in fact, secured extended rights.

It’s a right old mess at the minute and there’s likely to be plenty of, let’s say ‘lively discussions’ to come.

The background to it all is a real hornet’s nest.

As players, we have no say in what is going on. It’s way above our heads.

But we all want to see a good European competition in place.

I have been lucky enough to have been involved in the Heineken Cup in every year of my career at Leicester and we missed just one while I was at Wasps. It’s the pinnacle of northern hemisphere rugby and is absolutely brilliant to play in. Virtually knock-out rugby from the first game onwards.

But I can see why the English and French clubs have got frustrated by the current set-up

Those nations’ teams have to battle tooth and nail to finish in the top six of their leagues to make the Heineken.

In Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Wales, that’s not the case in the Celtic League.

I think that has been a bone of contention for a while.

I hope it gets sorted in a satisfactory manner and I also hope that, in earning the rights to cover English clubs at league and European level, that BT make the sport easily available to the viewing public.

It’s great that such a big amount of money has been invested in our sport but the public remain the lifeblood of what we do.

Nobody knows how it is going to be offered to the British public but if it is put on a costly platform or, heaven forbid, pay-per-view, people will simply stop watching it.

I like my boxing but, if a fight is on pay-per-view, I won’t pay for it and will just watch the free replay whenever it’s on.

If they go down that route, there is also the danger that the big clubs like Leicester, Harlequins and Saracens will be on every week. That won’t be good for the rest of the league.

One thing is for sure, I am glad I am not making those decisions.

George Skivington says English & French clubs got frustrated over European qualification.


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