NI rugby fans to miss out after Sky deal
Rugby fans in Northern Ireland will not be able to watch Ireland's autumn internationals on Freeview television after the IRFU and RTÉ confirmed that the national broadcaster will be obliged to block coverage of the November games from 2014 to 2017, as part of its new deal with Sky.In a communication with the Sinn Féin spokeswoman on sports, Sandra McLellan TD, RTÉ's head of broadcast compliance David McKenna confirmed: "It is correct that RTÉ will have to block our coverage of IRFU autumn international rugby matches on Freeview in Northern Ireland.
"RTÉ were awarded the rights for the Republic of Ireland only by the IRFU. The IRFU awarded the rights for the UK to Sky."
This development is due to the recent TV contract for November internationals which were sold to Sky on pay-per-view, as a result of which it is understood that the IRFU will receive more than €1 million annually for the duration of the deal. Although the IRFU is an all-Ireland sports governing body, rights for TV matches are sold on a territory basis.
With the North a separate jurisdiction for TV rights, the only way RTÉ would be permitted to show the November internationals in the North would be if Sky gave it permission to unblock the signal.
Having received confirmation the signal will be blocked, Ms McLellan said: "It is almost beyond belief that a sporting organisation such as the IRFU would sign a contract with Sky which would effectively cut off an estimated one-third of the team's fan base.
"The international rugby team is an all-island team. . .it is an excellent example of the positive role that sport can play in bringing people together," she added.
"I am somewhat perplexed as to why a 32-county organisation such as the IRFU would sign a contract which could have the potential to split its fan base. More importantly, I am alarmed that RTÉ, which is the national broadcaster, would exclude a large section of Northern supporters from accessing the games for free."