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ITV to broadcast ‘virtual’ Grand National and re-air Euro 96

UK free-to-air commercial broadcaster ITV will fill the hole in the gap left by the cancellation of the 2020 Grand National by offering live coverage of a virtual version of the iconic horse racing event.

The Jockey Club announced earlier this month that the 2020 Grand National Festival had been cancelled, with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) also suspending all horse racing from March 18 onwards due to Covid-19.

ITV has held exclusive free-to-air rights to British horse racing since the start of 2017, with its four-year deal for rights expiring at the end of 2020. The Grand National at Aintree Racecourse is one of its showpiece events.

The Virtual Grand National has been produced since 2017 to enhance coverage and will now be elevated at the time that this year’s event was due to take place.

The Virtual Grand National will broadcast live on ITV1 on April 4 at 5pm (BST). The simulation is produced by Inspired Entertainment, a virtual sports supplier.

Elsewhere, ITV has moved to address the absence of the Uefa Euro 2020 national team football tournament from its summer schedules by announcing that it will provide the 1996 competition, which England hosted, in full.

European football’s governing body Uefa this month decided to postpone its 2020 European Championship by 12 months in a bid to help domestic competitions across Europe be completed.

Starting in May, ITV’s OTT service, ITV Hub, will air all 31 games from Euro 96.

In addition, television channel ITV4 will also air England’s five games, as well as the final between Germany and the Czech Republic.

ITV, public broadcaster the BBC and sports network Eurosport all held broadcast rights in the UK to the finals. The acquisition of Euro 2020 rights by ITV and the BBC was finalised in late 2015.