PREMIERSHIP RUGBY HAS today agreed a deal with BT to allow the fledgling broadcaster exclusive rights to the Aviva Premiership.
The deal could be worth up to £152 (€190) million to the English league over four years from next season.
That value has been inflated due to the inclusion of exclusive rights for Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cup matches where English clubs are involved for three years from the 2014-15 season.
The move follows just months after BT successfully bid for Premier League football and so, leaves ESPN without top-flight rugby or football next season. Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty told The Guardian:
“This is a game-changing agreement and will deliver a service that I know our club supporters will enjoy. We are delighted to have concluded our discussions with such an ambitious partner that will help bring Premiership Rugby to new audiences.”
The agreement will be a blow to Sky, who currently share Premiership coverage with ESPN. From next season they will be without fixtures from England’s top division and have also seen their exclusive rights to the Heineken Cup diluted by BT.
The news comes amid claims from English and French clubs that they will withdraw from European competition if the qualification criteria are not altered.
Club representatives will meet in Dublin next week to debate and discuss such moves. The fresh deal with BT will leave Premiership Rugby in a secure position even without Heineken Cup involvement. Their new broadcast partners will be content to wait until 2014 for a re-entry.