Rugby Union: England out in the cold after Wales reject Sky's pounds 40.5m

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The Independent Online
England are almost certain to be cast out of the Five Nations' Championship after Wales joined Ireland and Scotland in rejecting a deal with Sky TV.

The Welsh Rugby Union officially turned down the satellite televison company's pounds 40.5m offer, which means only England have accepted a deal, worth pounds 87.5m over five years.

"We were offered twice as much as Scotland (pounds 20m) and Ireland (pounds 18m) in an attempt to break us up," the WRU chairman, Vernon Pugh, said. "There is no way we will abandon them because to do so would be to abandon ourselves.

"We are not negotiating with Sky because there are too many conditions attached to their money. It is not up to them to say how we should spend the money and there were other provisions which no sensible governing body would accept.

"We were being asked to surrender control of the game in Wales and there was also the consideration that England were offered more than the other three nations combined. That was not acceptable and we have invited tenders from other TV companies for international and domestic rugby."

Delegates from Scotland, Ireland and Wales will meet with French officials this week to decide the future of England in the championship.

England say they should get the lion's share because they have a bigger organisation to run and a rebuilt Twickenham to finance. Although the present television contract includes next season's tournament, it could be that the Celtic fringe sets up its own championship.

The Scottish Rugby Union insisted yesterday that they had no intention of backing down in their dispute with England over the sale of broadcasting rights.

Incoming president Fred McLeod said: "All four Home Unions are very solid on this and we've made our position very clear to the RFU."

Kim Deshayes, a former marketing manager at the Test and County Cricket Board, is switching sports to become the first chief executive of Epruc - the organisation running English professional clubs. Deshayes, 43, was at Lord's from 1983-89 and his current company, Sports and Outdoor Media, are marketing consultants for MCC and handle stadium advertising for the TCCB, the counties, Wembley stadium and Twickenham.

"Rugby is entering an exciting era and I am looking forward to being involved," Deshayes said. "One of my major tasks is to ensure that club rugby achieves a very significant market share in the coming seasons and I am confident that that objective can be met.

"I would like to stress that I see Epruc's future as working with the RFU for the greater good of the sport. Although Epruc represents the leading clubs, we are also very mindful of the needs of all in the game and I anticipate a harmonious and business-like working relationship with the RFU."

The left winger Justin Swart, is set to make his debut for the world champions, South Africa, when they meet Fiji for the first time at Test level in Pretoria on Tuesday. Swart, 23, steps in after Pieter Hendricks reported sick on Monday morning.