UK pay-television broadcasters BT Sport and BSkyB have reached an agreement in principle on a four-year deal to share the rights to the new European Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup club rugby union competitions.
The announcement was made on Thursday evening as European rugby’s stakeholders agreed terms on three new cross-border competitions that will replace the existing Heineken Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments from the 2014-15 season.
Under the terms of the deal, BT and Sky will share the pool matches equally, both will show two quarter-finals each, one semi-final each and the final will be broadcast by both live. The four-year agreement is subject to contract.
Thursday’s announcement ended a dispute over the future direction of European rugby that has rumbled on for nearly two years. In September 2012, BT Sport agreed a deal to show games featuring English Premiership top division clubs in a “dazzling new European tournament” for three years, from 2014-15 to 2016-17. However, the agreement was not approved by European Rugby Cup, the operator of the existing Heineken Cup, which immediately announced an extension of its rights deal with Sky for the same three-year period.
The three new cross-border club competitions will be called the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and the Qualifying Competition. An association will be established in Switzerland called European Professional Club Rugby. This body will be responsible for organising and managing the competitions.
The competitions have been formed under a minimum eight-year agreement.