Deal leaves England counting the cash

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Rugby Union

The Five Nations has been sold, subject to valuation. Details of the so-called climb-down by the Rugby Football Union to ensure England's continued participation in the 87-year-old Five Nations' Championship were made public in Dublin yesterday.

A lot emerged, but a great deal is still unknown. That England will have to part with some of the pounds 87.5m they are to receive over the next five years from BSkyB has always been accepted by Twickenham. But precisely how much is not known. To that end the Five Nations committee has decided to approach independent arbitrators who are experts in the broadcast media.

These specialists will decide what the 10 Five Nations matches are worth to television. The resulting sum will be divided up as follows: 90 per cent of the income will be shared equally among the five countries; 2.5 per cent will go to the tournament winners - the first time prize money has been offered; the runners-up will receive 1.5 per cent and one per cent will go to the third placed nation. A further five per cent will be apportioned according to the number of clubs affiliated to each union - England having 2,000 compared with Scotland's 200.

The other unknown, until possibly early next year, is just what will be on satellite television and what on the more accessible terrestrial channels.

Twickenham has conceded no single country has the right to sell the television rights to the Five Nations once the five-year contract with Sky runs out, otherwise the whole shooting match appears to be an England victory.

First, Twickenham gets to keep all its satellite cash; that means it can honour its agreement with the clubs and hand over the promised pounds 22.5m and the other unions have accepted the principle of live satellite TV coverage of Five Nations matches, an idea pioneered by England and what originally aroused the indignation of the Celtic fringe in particular. England have also overturned the old order of there being a fair share-out of the TV spoils for the Five Nations' Championship.

Vernon Pugh, who has been particularly outspoken against the principle of satellite TV coverage throughout the rancorous summer yesterday found himself saying: "We have taken sensible, commercial decisions. We have a duty to the public. Most, if not everybody, will be satisfied. There will be a fair proportion of matches on terrestrial TV - at least 50 per cent."

Cliff Brittle, chairman of the RFU executive committee, who brokered the deal that saved England after they had been slung out of the Five Nations in July, acknowledged that the internal dispute between Twickenham and the clubs which threatens to tear the game apart now has to be resolved.

"By using intelligence and common sense we have brought peace with the Five Nations. Now let the same criteria bring peace between our unions and our clubs. To the club owners I say that before you insist on early returns from your investments, stop and think, and in some cases learn, what you've become part of. I intend to play a central role to bring about a conclusion. Never before have we needed to establish genuine leadership within the game."

n Wales will play South Africa in a one-off international at Cardiff Arms Park on 15 December. The touring Springboks are also playing Tests in Argentina on 9 and 16 November and against France on 30 November and 7 December.

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