Six Nations yield to BBC offer

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The Independent Online

The Six Nations' Championship's new deal with the BBC ensures live TV coverage of all its matches over the next three seasons, but is worth £30 million less than the organisers originally anticipated.

The new agreement, thought to be worth £70m, is considerably short of the £100m price tag which the Six Nations' Committee had placed on the tournament. But a downturn in the sports- rights market, coupled with BSkyB's decision in March to pull out of the bidding, meant that the BBC were the only available broadcast partners.

The agreement guarantees major additional investment by the BBC in the production, presentation and promotion of the tournament, and will also enable terrestrial viewers to see all England's games at Twickenham and in France for the first time since 1997.

Peter Salmon, the director of BBC Sport, said: "The Six Nations is a unique competition that brings the British Isles together, and we are delighted to have the whole championship back on the BBC. We want to create modern heroes in the sport who will inspire current and future generations of fans and viewers."

The BBC have also pledged to offer multi-media coverage and help with grass-roots initiatives to develop the sport.

"Concluding a deal in the current market has not been without its challenges," Allan Hosie, the chairman of the Six Nations' Committee, said. "This package, given all the circumstances, is a credit to our negotiating team. The fact that all our games will be televised by one terrestrial broadcaster will ensure continuity and maximise visibility."

Hosie's committee must now turn their attention to finding new sponsors to succeed Lloyds TSB, who stepped down last week after pumping in some £35m over five years.