Heineken Cup doomed as TV war breaks out

BT lands £152m rugby deal but Sky then claim 'exclusive rights' to European matches

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 £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 the country, 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 and have been at the heart of the action ever since, it appeared to be a particularly heavy defeat.

As part of the new deal, BT will also have exclusive rights to any European matches involving Premiership clubs – and this is where the controversy begins. Premier Rugby, at serious loggerheads with Heineken Cup administrators over both the format and the commercial status of the world's leading club tournament, have, together with the French clubs, threatened to walk away from the competition in 2014 unless significant changes are agreed. This new money will strengthen their position when negotiations begin in earnest next week.

According to the Premiership clubs, the new money ring-fenced for European broadcasts will go into the common pot if agreement is reached, thereby increasing the financial take for all those involved. But by selling their European rights unilaterally, the English are effectively saying to the three Celtic nations and the Italians: "You can either see things our way, or you can do without our money."

The immediate response was very sharp indeed. Within hours, Heineken Cup officials upped the political ante by announcing that they had reached a new exclusive agreement with their existing broadcasters, BSkyB, until the end of the 2017-18 European campaign. Two rival TV companies: two exclusive deals. Something will have to give.

News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn