Government rejects motion to keep championship on terrestrial television

Six Nations not added to protected free-to-air list

The chances of the Six Nations moving behind a paywall have increased after the Government rejected a request to ensure the championship remains on free-to-air television.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee had called for the Six Nations to be added to the list of sports events on the protected broadcast free-to-air list.

MP Gavin Newlands tabled the motion, which stated that the possibility of the tournament moving to a pay-to-view subscription service “risks losing an audience that has been build up and will stymie the ability of the sport to attract young players to the game”.

However, this motion has been rejected by the Government.

The protected list includes the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup Finals, Wimbledon, the FA Cup final, the Grand National and the Rugby World Cup final. These are classed as Group A in the listed sporting events and must be given full live coverage on free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters.

There are other events, classed as Group B, that can be covered live on subscription channels provided there is secondary coverage – highlights for example – shown on free-to-air broadcasters.

The Government has ruled that the Six Nations will remain in this category, along with the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, Cricket World Cup and World Athletics Championship.

DCMS committee chair Julian Knight said: “It’s very disappointing and a real missed opportunity. It would have given fans hope for the future to see a national event that brings people together was being protected for all. That’s a message that becomes even more important in a time like this.”

Rugby World recently ran a poll on Twitter asking if the Six Nations should remain on free-to-air television and an overwhelming majority said yes.

Yet with Six Nations organisers not allowing joint bids from broadcasters, as is the case with the current deal involving the BBC and ITV that runs until 2021, it is now more likely to move behind a paywall.

Sky Sports are reported to be the favourites to secure the live broadcasting rights for the championship from 2022, with a deal worth £300m being mooted.

The April issue of Rugby World magazine – focusing on a new generation of Six Nations stars – is out now.

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