SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: We must not sell off the family silver amid battle to stop the Six Nations going behind a paywall… now more than ever we need the tournament to be a visible force on free-to-air TV
- Rugby’s authorities must resist temptation to put Six Nations behind a paywall
- Between domestic and international scene there is enough to go round for all
- But Six Nations must be allowed to stay as visible as it can during these times
- We must follow Wimbledon’s lead and reap the benefits of free-to-air coverage
- BBC chief sanctions ‘critical’ bid with ITV to keep Six Nations on free-to-air TV
I totally get the financial pressure rugby’s authorities are under and the technical expertise of all the broadcasters is superb but I would strongly urge the Unions not to ‘sell off the family silver’ and throw all their eggs into one basket with satellite or digital channels when it comes to the Six Nations.
Yes, it’s very tempting at present to bank a big cheque but that is short termism and it underplays the real long-term value of the Six Nations, especially if it introduces some kind of promotion and relegation as it should.
During Covid some of these Six Nations matches have been pulling in 8 or 9 million viewers — very big numbers indeed by today’s standards. If I was a large sponsor, or a big investor like CVC, who are new partners on the scene, I would be very interested in preserving those kind of figures for a gala sporting occasion like the Six Nations.
I get the temptations to sell the Six Nations for big money but rugby’s authorities must resist
Having the Six Nations on terrestrial TV is more important than ever after a tough last year
There is room for everybody. There is the Premiership, the European competitions and the autumn internationals.
But you must view the bigger picture, literally. I love all sports, but I can’t name the England cricket XI off the top of my head any more like I could when the Test matches were constantly on terrestrial TV. The reason I used to try and master tennis every summer is that Wimbledon is on the BBC, it’s almost a national event.
We are coming out of a uniquely difficult period, the grass roots have been hit badly, some of our top schoolboy and youth players haven’t played in earnest in well over a year. Rugby needs to make a splash and be very visible in the next few years. We need that terrestrial presence more than ever and the Six Nations is a natural fit.
Wimbledon’s presence on the BBC is why it has become such a big annual national event
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