The United Rugby Championship, the revamped Europe-based rugby union clubs competition, will be aired on RTE and TG4, the Irish public-service providers, for the next four years, it was announced today.
The free-to-air networks have agreed to share rights to 52 out of the 60 Irish fixtures each season, starting with the 2021-22 campaign.
The deals means Irish-language TG4 will build on its 20-year relationship with the competition, until now known as the Pro14, with RTE returning for the first time since 2014.
Eir Sport, the Irish pay-television broadcaster, has held rights to the Pro14 since 2019 but is shutting down later this year.
It was announced yesterday that the Pro14 was being rebranded as the URC, with four top South African teams – the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls – joining 12 established sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a 16-team competition.
RTE will provide television, radio and online coverage of 26 games involving Irish teams, plus additional knockout matches, in each season, with TG4 offering 26 itself.
The broadcasters will show the Grand Final on alternate years.
In addition, TG4 will also show 16 non-Irish fixtures.
Games will also be available via URC TV, a domestic and international OTT service to be operated by the URC and RTE, with details to be announced in due course.
Martin Anayi, chief executive of URC, said: “Free-to-air coverage is hugely attractive to all sports in terms of reaching the widest possible audience and in TG4 and RTÉ we have two partners who are really excited about launching the United Rugby Championship.
“Both TG4 and RTÉ have proven track records of delivering marquee international sporting events and they are both innovators in their own spaces. TG4 have added a new dimension to our games with their referee briefings from the dressing rooms and their mic’d up coaching interviews during warm-ups which bring fans behind the scenes.
“RTÉ have experienced big sporting occasions for decades and our decision to partner with them on our OTT player – URC TV – is evidence of a broadcaster that can adapt to market demands and provide a very creative offering for rights holders. We also cement the legacy of TG4’s association with us since the first days of the Celtic League and welcome back old friends at RTÉ to provide a very powerful offering to the widest audience in Ireland ahead of the first URC games in September.”
URC, which will comprise one division, as opposed to two conferences in the old competition, will begin its 2021-22 season in September, with each team to play 18 regular season fixtures, leading to playoffs, and a grand final next June.
It has been reported that the BBC, the UK's public-service broadcaster could show the revamped competition, with Premier Sports, the pay-TV operator, having previously shown the Pro14 in the country.
SuperSport, the South Africa-based subscription broadcaster, will provide URC coverage across South Africa, as it did for the Pro14.