Oval Talk

European TV rights fiasco gets ugly

The dispute which has exploded over the sale of UK TV rights for English clubs competing in European competition games has ignited what is likely to turn into a wrangling legal battle, one which could ultimately do more harm to the game than the intended benefits of bringing a larger financial investment.

In short, the debate centres around whether it is European Rugby Club (ERC) or Premiership Rugby who has the requisite permission to sell said rights.

Both have claimed ownership of the rights, indeed ERC struck a deal for an extension with BSkyB while Premiership Rugby entered an agreement with BT and when each broadcasting company's announcement was made last week it sent each governing body into combative mode as the row over who genuinely has (or had) the right to do such a deal kicked off.

At the heart of the matter is a complex and, as previously mentioned, legal matter over how exactly the land lies. However, as the first in what can be expected to be a series of tense and unrelenting meetings to sort the mess out gets underway in Dublin on Tuesday the prospect of a failure to resolve the issue leaves the European game with a somewhat clouded future.

There is also the prospect of a breakaway European competition as English clubs look to assert their claim that under an agreement with the RFU they are able to do their own TV deals. With many varying angles of argument it is hard to see how any of the interested parties will be prepared to back down, and it looks set to get messy.

Nevin Spence

Nevin Spence's untimely passing along with his father and brother on Saturday evening was tragic news as the game lost a huge talent with a bright future. Oval Talk's thoughts go out to Spence's family, friends and all those connected to Ulster Rugby at this very difficult time.