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World Rugby lifts suspension of Fijian rights deal

World Rugby, the global governing body for rugby union, has lifted its rights embargo on the Fijian broadcast feed for the Sevens World Series after resolving a dispute with the country’s government.

Earlier this month, World Rugby suspended its rights deal for the Sevens World Series with commercial broadcaster Fiji TV. Fiji recently became a democratic nation after moving from a military dictatorship. Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in May, while still leading the military dictatorship, took exception to Fiji TV taking sole ownership of broadcast rights to the Sevens World Series in the country. Bainimarama then imposed the ‘Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Decree', under which matches must be shared across private and public television channels.

World Rugby took exception to this move, but said the Fijian government has agreed to remove World Rugby events from the decree. World Rugby added: “Central to the government's decision was World Rugby’s offer to grant Fiji TV the right to sub-license on terms agreeable to World Rugby. This positive step serves the dual purpose of extending the broadcast footprint in Fiji, while protecting World Rugby's commercial revenues.

“Agreement was reached… following highly constructive dialogue between World Rugby, its rights-holding free-to-air broadcaster Fiji TV and the Fijian government on key issues relating to the non-consultative and retrospective application of the decree to the HSBC Sevens World Series, Rugby World Cup and Rugby World Cup Sevens, which seriously undermined World Rugby’s exclusive and long-standing deal with Fiji TV.”

Fiji has a huge interest in rugby sevens and the impasse affected broadcast coverage of the second round of the World Series in Dubai earlier this month. The new agreement was in place to allow Fiji TV to broadcast full coverage of the third round, which took place in Port Elizabeth, South Africa at the weekend.