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Lions won’t move tour dates after Olympics postponement, Sky ‘retains TV rights’

The British and Irish Lions rugby union team will not move the dates of their tour of South Africa next summer, despite its dates clashing with the rescheduled 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The tour’s organisers said that despite the conflict of dates – the Olympics will now run from July 23 to August 8 and with the Lions’ three fixtures against last year’s World Cup winners taking place on July 24, 31, and August 7 – none of the games would crossover with Olympic competition due to the time differences. The Lions games will kick-off 6pm South African time, which is 1am in Tokyo.

A lucrative UK broadcast rights deal for the tour is also set to be announced with pay-television broadcaster Sky. The Daily Telegraph reports that Sky is understood to have secured the rights earlier this year, before the Olympic delay was announced, leaving one of the tour’s primary revenue sources unaffected.

Sky has been the UK television home of the Lions matches since 1997.

With well over a year remaining until the tour kicks off, organisers are also hopeful that the clash will not adversely affect sponsorship revenues – which provides the majority of the income claimed by the Lions – or revenues from ticket and tour package sales.

The Lions’ 2017 tour of New Zealand was reported to have earned a profit of around £20m (€22.2m/$24.4m) for the host nation, as well as contributing as much as £100m to its GDP.

The ticket sales process has been delayed, however.

The inclusive travel packages and the ballot for domestic fans in South Africa were both due to launch in April this year, with the European general ticket sale opening in July, but these dates will now be pushed back, at a date to yet be announced.

Organisers stated that they did not “think it appropriate” to make tickets available while the world deals with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.