Channel 4 to feature club game
By Mick Cleary
CLUB rugby will be back on terrestrial television in the new yearChannel 4
are to show a one-hour programme on Saturday mornings, which will feature a
review of issues and matches as well as previewing the action of the
weekend. Bath and England centre Jeremy Guscott has been approached to front
the show and there are plans for 22 programmes beginning on Jan 2.
The BBC have secured secondary rights to the live club action of the
weekend. Sunday Grandstand will be able to use footage from BSkyB's live
coverage of the previous day, as well as having the opportunity to show
edited highlights from matches on Sundays.
A 40-minute package is envisaged but the BBC have not yet made any firm
commitment as to when their coverage might begin. The beginning of February
is a likely start date.
The joint deal is a triumph for the Rugby Football Union's new chief
executive, Francis Baron. One of his stated objectives on taking office two
months ago was to find a terrestrial outlet for domestic rugby. Channel 5's
Rugby Express did not get off the ground this season due to lack of funding.
BSkyB are in the middle of a five-year 87.5 million deal. They have live
rights to all England's matches at Twickenham as well as Allied Dunbar and
Tetley's Bitter Cup matches. However, they have actively sought a
Neither the Channel 4 nor the BBC deal is yet formally signed, though
confirmation is expected within the next few days. "We've always tried to
work with the RFU in providing a terrestrial platform for club rugby," said
Sky Sports managing director Vic Wakeling. "We've been talking to various
interested parties about possible deals."
Wakeling's former right-hand man, Mark Sharman, has recently taken over at
Channel 4. That channel's sporting portfolio has been greatly enhanced with
the securing of the rights to Test cricket. The secondary rights will not
cost either Channel 4 or BBC a king's ransom.
The Channel 4 programme will go out at 11am. It will be prerecorded and will
be shot on location.
The financial turmoil among the top English clubs continued yesterday when
West Hartlepool, the bottom club in the Allied Dunbar Premiership, announced
cutbacks aimed at saving 400,000 this season. West are looking to reduce a
senior squad of 36 to about 22 players.