First call for BT over Sky Sports on games in European club rugby’s brave new … –

Sky will also have first choice on three matches involving English clubs in
the second-tier competition to replace the Amlin Challenge Cup, with BT then
able to select three games that do not involve English sides.

The new deal, which Ian Ritchie, the Rugby Football Union chief executive, has
played a key role in brokering, reflects the fact that BT Sport had signed
an exclusive deal with the Premiership clubs for their games in Europe next
season while Sky Sports also had a new contract in place to broadcast the
Heineken Cup.

The make-up of the pools, with only the winners of the three leagues
guaranteed a seeding in the new European Rugby Champions Cup to replace the
Heineken Cup, will also have a major influence on which of the ‘big games’
are shown by either broadcaster.

It is understood that coverage of the knockout stages will be shared equally
between the two broadcasters, with each expected to show two quarter-finals
each and one of the semi-finals.

The final, which is poised to be brought forward from its traditional late May
date to the first weekend of that month next year, will be broadcast by both
BT Sport and Sky Sports.

The disclosure comes as hopes that a new six-year accord would be signed on
Wednesday were dashed by 11th-hour demands from the Italian Rugby Federation
for more time to consider the detail of the agreement.

The Italian federation’s concern is that it may be worse off financially under
the new deal after threatening to pull out of the Pro12 after four years
because it was no longer prepared to pay €3 million (£2.5 million) a year to
be part of the league.

While the unexpected hitch in the negotiations is understood to pose no threat
to the deal, which will establish a 20-team European Rugby Champions Cup to
replace the 24-team Heineken Cup next season, the prevailing spirit of
goodwill could now see the announcement delayed until next week.

The new broadcasting deal, to be announced shortly after the six-year accord
is signed by the nine stakeholders, has been one of the cornerstones of the
recent breakthrough after almost two years of torturous negotiations over
the future of European club competitions.

After the English and French clubs gave notice to leave the present European
accord, BT Sport signed a £152  million contract with the Premiership clubs
in September 2012 that included a three-year deal for games involving
English clubs in Europe from the 2014-15 season.

The BT deal was announced on the same day that Sky disclosed a new deal with
European Rugby Cup to extend its rights to broadcast exclusively the
Heineken Cup in the UK.

Their decision to compromise over the broadcasting of the new tournaments next
season effectively removed any legal threat to the ERC directors, who feared
they may have been sued by Sky if they agreed to the changes demanded by the
English and French clubs to create a new tournament that would be broadcast
by BT in the UK.


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