Rugby Union: Welsh hold the key to TV deal: WRU involved in dispute over the screening of club games

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The Independent Online
THE Five Nations television contract negotiations are in danger of developing into one big scrum among the home unions. While ITV had apparently come close to wresting the hold on domestic rugby from the BBC, the Welsh Rugby Union has stepped in and effectively moved the goalposts.

The main sticking point concerns the screening of club rugby in Wales, which under the terms of the last contract has been covered under an exclusive BBC secondary deal. The WRU, though, is apparently seeking a return to the format that existed three years ago.

Then, BBC Wales and HTV had separate contracts to the core contract with the WRU, which, it seems, does not want club rugby to be included in the Five Nations package.

It is now understood that the WRU has put out a tender document offering two separate packages to the BBC and HTV, asking the companies to bid for non-exclusive rights to televise Welsh club rugby.

This has muddied the waters so far as the negotiations are concerned. The winners of the domestic contract, were, after all, expected to have been announced last week.

Also apparently complicating the issues is Sky, which hopes to pick up secondary rights to major matches. Meanwhile, the odds on the BBC collecting the contract again would appear to be shortening, although it is conceivable that the home unions could finish up negotiating individual deals. At the moment, the BBC has first choice of two matches in each of the home unions up to a maximum of eight. ITV anticipated a similar arrangement in providing a weekly show and for that would need similar access to club rugby. The Welsh, though, appear to hold the key to the whole protracted affair.

Alan Watkins, page 34

Laws experiment, page 35