Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK have released a statement recommending that the annual Six Nations rugby union tournament should remain on free-to-air (FTA) television.

A body of cross-party MPs on the Welsh Affairs Committee have now stated their recommendation that the Six Nations be reclassified as a 'Group A' event, protecting it from being shown behind a pay barrier.

In the UK, sporting events are divided into 'Group A' and 'Group B' events.

Group A events are ones that pay-TV broadcasters cannot purchase the rights for unless the three major public broadcast networks in the country (the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4) all turn it down. These include events such as the Olympic games and soccer’s FA Cup.   

Group B events on the other hand may be purchased by pay-TV providers and subscription services, provided that they meet a set of conditions that can include having to make highlights available on free-to-air television.

Although the Six Nations’ media rights are currently split between the BBC and ITV, the competition technically remains a Group B competition, which the committee argues could see it fall into the hands of pay-TV broadcasters.

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This is especially prevalent given the World Rugby governing body’s announcement of a new biennial global rugby tournament, which many believe the media rights to could be bundled with the Six Nation’s media rights for sale to pay broadcasters.

The committee, composed of members of the Conservative, Labour, and Plaid Cymru parties, as well as independent MPs, stated: “The danger of sports coverage going behind a paywall is that any additional short-term injection of money does not reach the grassroots and is offset in the longer term by reduced awareness of and participation in the sport.”

The committee continued: “We do not believe that the listed events regime currently accurately reflects the importance placed by supporters on certain competitions. We recommend that the government adds the Six Nations to Group A of the Listed Sporting Events, to ensure its status on terrestrial TV.”

The board, which derives its members from the Welsh devolved government body, the Senedd, also stated its wish for the Group A classification to be amended to contain a specific list of Welsh events to support the country’s sporting heritage.