Subscriptions loom as Six Nations is not added to free-to-air list

It had been suggested that the competition would be added and remain free after 2021

Ireland’s last Six Nations triumph in 2015. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland’s last Six Nations triumph in 2015. Photograph: Inpho

 

Rugby fans may have to pay to watch the Six Nations from 2021 - after the competition was not added to the list of Ireland’s compulsory free-to-air sporting events.

The Six Nations will continue to be broadcast on RTÉ until 2018 when TV3 and BBC will take over the rights for a further three years. After Tuesday’s omission however, the competition will then be open to bidding from subscription-based sports channels.

At present the Six Nations is designated free-to-air only for deferred television coverage and RTÉ pays just over €4 million a year for the broadcast rights.

Communications minister Denis Naughten has excluded the northern hemisphere’s primary rugby event from this year’s list - while adding the All-Ireland camogie and ladies’ football finals for the first time. A record attendance of 34,443 watched Sunday’s Ladies Football final between Dublin and Cork, a reflection of the growing status of the games.

Among the other events that make up the list are the Summer Olympics, the soccer World Cup, European Championships and their respective qualifier games, Ireland’s Rugby World Cup games and the All-Ireland GAA senior hurling and football finals. Events deemed to have a “special resonance” and a “distinct cultural importance” for Irish people.

Naughten’s predecessor Alex White had said last summer there was a strong case for keeping the Six Nations rugby championship free for Irish television viewers - and that he was considering adding Ireland’s home matches in the Six Nations to the list of free-to-air events.

Second Captains

“I think there is a case if you look at the Six Nations,” White told RTÉ last year. “The question I have to ask is does it have a distinct cultural significance or importance for Irish people? I think there is a strong case for it.”

Nevertheless Naughten has opted against such. Which will be positive news for the IRFU - who have claimed that revenues may fall if Six Nations free-to-air, making it well nigh impossible for them to maintain four professional set-ups in the provinces and keep the front- line players at home.

The IRFU’s communications director, Stephen McNamara, previously told The Irish Times: “The Irish Rugby Football Union, Six Nations Rugby Limited and European Professional Club Rugby are strongly of the view that the status quo should be maintained.

“The Designation of Major Events Order 2003 – requiring deferred free-to-air coverage of Ireland’s Six Nations Championship matches, but not listing the Irish provinces’ European matches – strikes an appropriate balance between our desire to make the matches accessible to the widest possible audience and the need to avoid causing Irish rugby substantial financial losses.”

Free-to-air list:

LIVE:

The Summer Olympics,
The All-Ireland Senior Inter-County Football and Hurling finals,
Ireland’s home and away qualifying games in the European Football Championship and the Fifa World Cup tournaments,
Ireland’s games in the European Football Championship finals and the Fifa World Cup finals,
Ireland’s games in the Rugby World Cup Finals,
The Irish Grand National and the Irish Derby,
The Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show,
Ladies Football and Camogie All-Ireland finals.

DEFERRED:

Ireland’s games in the Six Nations.

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