Storm clouds must be gathering over the celtic rugby nations and Italy today – BT Sports has just bought the exclusive rights to European Football matches from 2015. The realisation that BT mean business must be a real wake up call – Sky no longer is the only big beast in the sports pay TV market. This means real trouble for the Rugby European club championship (RECC)
For a while now I’ve been passing occasional comment on the collapse of the current RECC, known as the Heineken Cup, which the French and English clubs have withdrawn from and are going it alone. It was supposed to be about who controls the RECC – club or Country however the real war was between Sky, current rights holders, and BT Sports, the rights holders of English premiership rugby club competitions – the French were a willing bystander in this fight as they saw the BT Sports offer to the English clubs as a means of increasing their revenues.
Over the early part of the autumn there was always a hope amongst the non Anglo-French rugby nations that there was some form of compromise. This hope has been totally shattered. BT Sports really do mean business and they really do want the rights to ALL English premiership rugby club games – which means destroying the current RECC because of the aggressive way they have bought the rights for the much, much more expensive football equivalent. When you are willing to spend over the odds for one sport then you are serious about other rights you own for others, in this case English Premiership Rugby Union – especially their European Club Rugby games.
So what will the outcome of this? Well I suspect in the not too distant future, probably before then end of the year, the non Anglo-French rugby nations will sue for peace with their Anglo-French counterparts. The national rugby unions will finally have to embrace the reality that they no longer control their clubs and we will take a blinking step into the new world order. Goodness knows where this will take us.