BT’s rugby deal threatened by Sky rights row

English rugby body the European Rugby Cup (ERC) has claimed that BT’s deal to air Aviva Premiership Rugby, including European matches, is in breach of regulations.

BT yesterday announced a landmark £152 million (€190) deal to air rugby coverage, the latest move into premium sports rights by the telco following its Premier League football deal. This was immediately followed by an announcement from pay TV operator BSkyB that it had secured exclusive European rugby rights from ERC from the start of the 2014-15 season.

In a statement, ERC said BT’s deal was “in breach both of International Rugby Board regulations and of a mandate from the ERC Board itself”.

According to ERC, it has been granted the exclusive authority to sell broadcast rights to its tournaments by the European club rugby’s six participant unions. “It was unanimously agreed at an ERC Board meeting on 6 June 2012 that ERC would conclude a new four-year agreement with Sky Sports. Premiership Rugby was party to that decision,” ERC said.

Premiership Rugby, the body behind the deal with Sky responded by claiming ERC’s right to sign deals with broadcasters is only valid until 2014. “ERC’s suggestion that Premiership Rugby may be in breach of IRB regulations is wrong,” Premier League Rugby said in a statement.

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