RTÉ HAS CONFIRMED that it will have to block coverage of IRFU Autumn International Rugby to viewers in Northern Ireland from next year, as the BBC has lost the rights for the games and RTÉ has been awarded the rights in the Republic only.
Sinne Féin spokesperson on sports Deputy Sandra McLellan expressed “dismay” at the news that the signal will be blocked to fans in Northern Ireland as a result of a contractual arrangement with the IRFU, which has awarded the rights to Sky.
“It is almost beyond belief that a sporting organisation such as the IRFU would sign a contract with Sky Sports which would effectively cut off an estimated one third of the team’s fan base,” she said. “The international rugby team is an all island team. The team’s mixture in terms of culture and religion reflects the islands diversity and it is an excellent example of the positive role that sport can play in bringing people together.”
In a letter to Deputy McLellan, Head of Broadcast Compliance at RTÉ David McKenna said:
RTÉ does look to broadcast its sporting coverage in Northern Ireland; however sometimes this is not possible for contractual or commercial reasons. Under the new contract awarded by the IRFU, RTÉ will be required to black our coverage of the International games on Freeview in Northern Ireland from 2014 to 2017. RTÉ were awarded the rights for the Republic of Ireland by the IRFU. The IRFU awarded the right for the UK to Sky.
“I am somewhat perplexed as to why a thirty-two county organisation such as the IRFU would sign a contract which could have the potential to split its fan base,” said McLellan.