Major row brewing after English clubs sign £152m TV deal
The landscape of professional club rugby across Europe is likely to change dramatically as a result of a highly lucrative deal between England's leading teams and the telecoms giant BT – the latest big-money player in the sports broadcasting market, ambitious enough to have splashed out almost £1bn on rights over the last three months. The contract, worth up to £152m to the Premiership teams over four years, threatens to transform the politics of the game in the northern hemisphere, as well as its economics.
Premier Rugby, the umbrella organisation representing the 12 top-flight sides in England, announced yesterday that BT had bought exclusive rights to league matches, starting next season. Negotiations were also held with the current broadcasters, BSkyB and ESPN, who have been splitting live broadcasts between them, but they either would not or could not match the BT bid. For BSkyB, the broadcasters who helped drive the sport towards professionalism in the mid-1990s, it appeared to be a heavy defeat.
Controversially, and unilaterally, as part of the deal BT will also have exclusive rights to any European matches involving Premiership clubs once the Heineken Cup contract with Sky ends in 2014. MORE
Ballydoyle old boys dominate Doncaster
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England delay squad unveiling
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Cool Cavendish takes race lead
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Lampard dismisses home comforts
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Masters event off after funding cut
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Van Persie injury fears played down
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England win to tie Twenty20 series
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It has been a problem that has consumed Sven Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello. All of them – one way or another – have gambled on Wayne Rooney saving their skins. MORE