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BBC Alba commits to Scottish rugby coverage

BBC Alba, the Gaelic-language channel operated by UK public-service broadcaster the BBC, has eased concerns over its commitment to Scottish rugby union by announcing enhanced coverage plans for Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors games.

The channel started covering the two clubs’ Pro 12 games two years ago, but supporters had expressed concerns that the opportunity to cover popular football club Glasgow Rangers might replace some of the rugby coverage. Rangers has been demoted to the Third Division from the Scottish Premier League following its liquidation and formation as a new company, and BBC Alba broadcast Rangers’ Challenge Cup game against Brechin City on Sunday to mark the start of a new three-year rights deal for the competition.

However, BBC Alba head of content Allan Esslemont said that rugby union remains a “very important” part of the channel’s “holistic” strategy for sport.

“We covered Rangers because it was part of a competition we’ve been covering for four years,” he said, according to The Scotsman newspaper. “But we have made a commitment to mainstream sports within Scotland that fall below the commercial radar and there’s a good marriage between BBC Alba and rugby. I think it worked well for the teams, Scottish rugby and ourselves last season because there was a growth in interest in the game at various levels, helped by the performance of the Scottish teams, of course.”

Esslemont added: “We do have restricted resources but rugby is important to us, and with the help of a coalition of broadcasters from Ireland, Wales and Italy we are able to provide coverage in Scotland and get reciprocal games from the other countries.”