By Chris Tipping, rugby writer

At the risk of sounding like one of those professional whiners who used to drive the old TV show Points of View; why oh why oh why are there no Lions highlights available on terrestrial television here in England?

From recollections of a childhood consuming sport in as many ways as possible, some of the most memorable world events became so, because they came with pictures.

 If you excuse me the folly of a piece of shameful romanticism, imagine a scene where tomorrow’s British and Irish rugby stars are inspired by the images of a proud band of men taking the field in another hemisphere to do battle for the shirt and the reputation of our sport, etc, etc…

 Well, unless they’re in a house with a Sky Sports subscription (£35.50 per month at time of writing), it ain’t going to happen! That is unless they can pick up the Welsh carrier S4C, who will carry highlights of all the Lions’ tour matches.

 Given its history and cachet – I hear you say; surely the Lions would be on the government’s oft-mentioned ‘Sport’s Crown Jewels’ list? As it happens, it’s not on the A list (that covers live coverage) or the B list (that covers highlights packages), which means that as the exclusive rights holder, BSkyB can decide who, if anyone, it sells highlights rights to, not the government.

 Now, I’m not completely on top of the detail in BSkyB’s rights deal, but I am thinking maintaining the exclusivity of its coverage with no terrestrial highlights follow-ups, means its product is more tempting to potential consumers; but at what cost to the sport’s future?

 The model of live satellite coverage with terrestrial highlights has worked pretty well in cricket, where this summer’s Ashes will, for the first time, be shown live only on satellite (BSkyB) and then backed up with a daily highlights show on Five. For cricket fans who are not Sky Sports subscribers, it’s not an ideal situation, but at least it’s some crumb of consolation.

 I am also convinced this model has legs by the success of ITV’s highlights of the Guinness Premiership last season. Though I don’t know the exact figures, I would be amazed if the popularity of rugby in England hasn’t taken a huge step forward as a result of this terrestrial coverage.

 By similar token, the legend of Lions rugby would definitely grow with some sort of domestic access. A government-commissioned review is re-assessing the ‘Crown Jewels’ list and is expected to report back to the Culture, Media and Sport secretary Andy Burnham later this year. So, get the Lions on that list I say!

But what do you think? Do you agree with Chris?

  • Colin

    I was going to comment that the Lions Tour should be shown even as Highlights on terrestrial for people like myself that dare not go out during game time for fear people don’y have SKY. But then I read Allisons first Blog and have to agree to everything said. So to keep up the excellent coverage we receive i will just bite the bullet and continue paying subscription fees.
    At least they give fair coverage unlike the Sunday papers who even when no matches being played devote 5 pages to football and half a page each to rugby Union/League.

  • paulmorganrugbyworld

    S4C have highlights in Wales, but I think mainly because outside of Wales you can only get S4C if you have a dish, so it doesn’t lose Sky any subscribers.

  • Alan Wright

    Chris, just a wee point of information. There are no highlights, etc. here in Scotland either. Nor, I suspect in Wales or Ireland. I’ll bet fans in those parts are frustrated too.
    What is our touring Squad called?


    Nothing wrong with shameful romanticism – but it has no place in business and sport is a business. Sky has invested phenomenal amounts of money in to sport, and the technology associated with its coverage. The fact that they are committed to showing sport from all over the World is a credit to them – those rights have to be acquired – so when they decide to pay top dollar for an event you can see why they want to maximise the return they get from it by using it to drive their subscription base. Of course, it would be lovely for everyone to be able to watch everything – but we said goodbye to that a long time ago. Money from TV rights is part of a rugby clubs revenue stream anyway so that should be channeled to do all they can to get more people along at club level. That’s where we need to grow support – the country is full of International supporters but a love of rugby is born at club level if it is to be maintained. I subscribe to Sky – because I love sport – but I’m not pro Sky – just accepting of the reality of the business that is sport.

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  • Matthew

    Sky dominates nearly all sport, making much great sport only avaliable to the rich few. Football and cricket can still be found on teristerial TV, but rugby is barren apart from the 6 nations on the BBC.

    Guinness premership highlights are on ITV 4 too early on a sunday evening, and you can just forget the heineken cup if you don’t have sky.

    Rugby has such a huge potential to grow, but this is being limited by the greedy sponsors/shareholders/clubs. About the only positive i can see from Sky having it is i have to go down the pub to watch the games, which i guess supports local pubs if nothing else.

    I believe Sky is showing live rugby union games from 10:30am untill midnight, including the Lions and England. Is this good for the sports growth. Nope