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Rugby Australia in talks with ‘broader market’ amid Foxtel exit reports

Rugby Australia has said it is in “general discussions with the broader market”, including Foxtel, amid reports the pay-television operator may end its long-running association with the sport’s national governing body.

In December 2015, Fox Sports retained rights in Australia for Test matches and tournaments operated by Sanzaar, rugby union’s governing body in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

Under the deal, RA receives a total of A$285m (€175.6m/$193.4m) over five years, from 2016 to 2020 – a 148-per-cent increase on the previous rights cycle, from 2011 to 2015. The contract also includes a sublicensing element with commercial broadcaster Ten.

Foxtel has a two-decade relationship with RA, but the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, citing senior Foxtel sources, said the company has withdrawn a five-year rights offer for the Super Rugby competition, the National Rugby Championships and Australia Test matches.

The Australian newspaper added that this decision has come after a A$20m per year offer was rejected. The Herald added that telco Optus has expressed interest in the rights, with a bid in the region of A$30m per year potentially on the cards.

Responding to the reports, Rugby Australia said in a statement: “In relation to its media rights, Rugby Australia is currently in general discussions with the broader market about the rights for the period for 2021 to 2025. No formal negotiations with the broader market have yet taken place.

“Rugby Australia will commence a formal rights offer process at an appropriate time before the end of the current rights period. Rugby has had a 25-year partnership with Fox Sports and continues to be in discussions with their key executives.”

In August, Foxtel warned that any move to increase free-to-air exposure for the Super Rugby club competition would lead to it reducing its offer for broadcast rights.