Rugby Union: Ponty sin bin for the BBC

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IT ISN'T only Cardiff and Swansea who are persona non grata in the eyes of the rugby establishment in Wales. BBC Wales has been added to the black list.

In an unprecedented move, the corporation has been banned by Pontypridd RFC. BBC Wales intended to provide radio coverage of Pontypridd's European Cup tie against Colomiers at Sardis Road yesterday. Instead they received a fax from the club telling them: "TV, radio and news would be excluded from entry and the ban will continue indefinitely."

Pontypridd's move follows the BBC's live television coverage last week of the friendly between Swansea and Newcastle. "We find it unacceptable that the BBC want to televise games at the same time as other matches are taking place, and also expect to put their radio units at those other grounds," Cenydd Thomas, Pontypridd's chief executive, said.

In a statement, the BBC said: "We are saddened by Pontypridd's action. We have taken the view that we should not take sides in the current dispute in Welsh rugby and have been careful not to do so. However, as public service broadcasters BBC Wales have to consider the interests and appetites of the public."

Outside the Five Nations', BBC Wales has been restricted to football and Welsh snooker after losing domestic rugby to HTV and S4C. With Cardiff and Swansea playing "rebel" matches against the English clubs, BBC Wales saw an opportunity to boost its rugby coverage. However, yesterday it did not show the Cardiff-Northampton match live, only extracts in the early evening. Today, in an unscheduled move it will feature highlights from both Cardiff-Northampton and Richmond against Swansea. The WRU take such a dim view of the Cardiff and Swansea breakaway that they have asked HTV not even to acknowledge the results of their matches.

Having been dispatched to the sin bin by Pontypridd, will the BBC continue to cover the "rebel" matches? "No comment," said a spokesperson. "There's a lot of fun and games going on." Not much fun, by the sound of it, and even fewer games.

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