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Sky/BT Deal Could Rescue The Future Of European Club Rugby

Sky/BT Deal Could Rescue The Future Of European Club Rugby
By Paul O'Hara

Picture credit: Sportsfile

Sky and BT look set to agree a deal to share coverage of European Rugby, the Telegraph has reported today.

A deal between the two organisations was nearly agreed last night, and if brokered would clear the way for a successor tournament for the beleaguered Heineken Cup.

The extraordinary development is a culmination of over 18 months of protracted negotiations over the future of professional club rugby in Europe.

News of negotiations between Sky and BT came 24 hours after European rugby’s stakeholders met in Paris, and took a significant step forward in reaching agreement on a new six-nation club tournament.

The impasse began in September 2012 when Sky renewed its contract with Heineken Cup organisers ERC at the same time that the English Premiership agreed a coverage deal with BT Sports, which included any European games involving English sides.

The English and French clubs had already announced their intention to sever ties with the ERC over the structure and funding of European competition.

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It is believed that relations between the two broadcasters are so poor that there has been no direct communication between the two bodies. Instead English RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie has acted as a go-between. Ritchie, who is an ex-CEO of Channel 5, has been the main mediator between all parties in the recent Paris talks on the future of European competition.

An agreement between BSkyB and BT would negate the need for a legal battle over which organisation's contract, if any, is the legitimate one, and if compensation would need to be paid out.

As of Friday morning, it is believed that the remaining issues to be fully ironed out are exact amount each party is to receive from the deal, and which matches each will cover.

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The rivalry between the two giants took to the sports broadcasting arena in 2012 when BT made an £897 million bid for exclusive European football rights from 2015, vastly exceeding Sky's offer.

[Daily Telegraph]

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