Rugby Australia suspends broadcast rights discussion to deal with ‘unprecedented’ coronavirus impacts

Rugby Australia has decided to suspend its broadcast rights negotiations amid the issues faced by both the media and sports industries over the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The process has been delayed by three months initially, with CEO Raelene Castle saying the decision was made following ‘feedback from stakeholders’ and will allow them to ‘focus on the important issues they are facing’.

Rugby Australia has made the decision to suspend its search for a new broadcast partner

In a media conference held yesterday afternoon, Castle said there were significant commercial implications to be considered.

“We are looking at various options for the remainder of the season to continue to deliver content for our broadcasters,” said Castle.

Rugby Australia currently holds broadcast deals with Foxtel/Kayo, Ten, ABC Radio and Croc Media. The decision to open negotiations on the rights was announced earlier this year, with a closed pitch process due to end this month. It was the first time Rugby had taken its rights to market since 1996.

“We have taken the decision to suspend our media rights process while we deal with this unprecedented situation. This decision was made after feedback from our stakeholders involved in the process and will allow them to focus on the important issues that they are all facing within their own businesses,” Castle told reporters yesterday. The process has been delayed for three months at this stage.

The delay isn’t the only impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had on rugby. Super Rugby has been suspended, although players are still training and preparing in case the organisation decides to focus on a domestic competition to fulfil its content requirements. The Super W finals have been postponed, possibly till the end of May.

Castle said the health and welfare of Rugby players, match officials, staff and fans is first and foremost the consideration, although the organisation has been impacted in ways ‘we could never have imagined’.

“We support [the government’s restriction] decisions as the health and wellbeing of Australians must come first, however, any ongoing restrictions will place extreme pressure on Rugby Australia’s finances,” she said.

In the immediate future, Castle is confident that if the organisation can find content to provide, the broadcasters will be happy to run it.

“They’re all looking for content, content is falling over. We’re making sure we can give them an option.

“We’ve still got another nine months until we require a new broadcast deal, it’s less than ideal obviously, we’d have liked to be able to complete the process, but at the end of the day this was something none of us saw coming, including the people who we are currently in very constructive and positive conversations with, and they need to focus on those things for now,” said Castle.

“We’ve got a great product to sell, we just have to make sure everything is in place so we can have those conversations.

“Sport’s not going anywhere.”

Castle told reporters she was confident the outbreak wouldn’t have long-term impacts on the sport and that Rugby would be able to bounce back from the virus.


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