Understanding the New PRO14 Television Deal

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Understanding the New PRO14 Television Deal

Photo by tmeier1964, Public Domain

The Guinness PRO14 league has agreed to an exciting new television deal, which will almost double the overall value of its broadcast rights from 2019 and beyond. Every match in the PRO14 league will be broadcast in Ireland and the U.K. as part of a lucrative new three-year contract. The agreement ends the league’s association with Sky Sports, who televised the PRO14 league to rugby union lovers since the 2014-15 campaign.

Indeed, there is a significant cash boost to all the sides involved in the PRO14 as part of this new television deal. However, comparatively, with the French Top 14 league, it is still a drop in the ocean. Ulster and the rest of the league are slated to receive over £2 million per season during the three-year agreement with eir Sport — winner of the Irish rights to broadcast the league — and Premier Sports and FreeSports, who will be the broadcasters for U.K. viewers. The television revenue per club looks even less significant when you consider a poker player recently won $8.8 million at one of the world’s biggest tournaments, the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

Nevertheless, in the context of television revenue, in the history of the PRO14, it is an exciting deal for all involved. A sub-licensing agreement will also see TG4 given the ability to broadcast games. The deal is encouraging news for PRO14 clubs given that the revenue gap is slowly narrowing with the Gallagher Premiership. It is understood that the overall value of the deal will be worth €28 million across a league enhanced this year by the addition of two South African clubs. Furthermore, a new two-tier conference system has also been designed to improve the longevity and competitiveness of the PRO14 season.

Martin Anayi, chief executive of PRO14 Rugby, believes the new broadcasting deal will help to “unlock the tournament’s vast potential.” Its expansion into South Africa has underlined the demand from clubs wishing to play at this level, and Anayi believes the increased revenue will allow teams to “invest back into [their] clubs.” The deal is fantastic timing for PRO14 Rugby given that the RFU has recently sent out a warning to clubs in the Gallagher Premiership regarding the overinflated and unsustainable salaries being paid to many of the teams’ overseas stars. Anayi says that PRO14’s new television contract will “ensure sustainability” for clubs such as Ulster, allowing them to “further invest from the ground up” to foster growth on and off the pitch. The priority of all PRO14 teams will be to attract a new generation of supporters, and increased exposure on eir Sports will provide this. Furthermore, the increased funds will allow Ulster to put more funds into its rugby academy.

Ulster fans wishing to see every kick of every minute of their team’s PRO14 campaign and keep up-to-date with the latest Pro14 rugby news will need to subscribe to the eir Sports service, formerly known as Setanta Sports. Eir broadband customers will be able to watch live online for free. Meanwhile, Sky TV customers can also subscribe and connect eir Sports to their Sky Box from $27.50 a month. Ulster fans living in the U.K., however, will need to subscribe to the Premier Sports channel for £9.99 per month. One game per round of fixtures will also be broadcast on Premier Sports’ free-to-air channel, FreeSports.

Photo by Chris P Jobling, CC BY-SA 2.0

Ulster coach, Dan McFarland, was dealt a minor setback to his side’s plans at the start of the 2018-19 campaign with the news that winger Jacob Stockdale will miss up to eight weeks of competitive action due to a Grade 2 hamstring strain. The Ireland back, who scored 20 tries for Ulster and his country last season, was already set to miss the first two PRO14 fixtures as part of Ireland’s overseas tour to Australia. However, this latest injury knock-back — sustained in training — will keep Stockdale sidelined until early October.

McFarland will be down to the bare bones with his backs at the beginning of the campaign. The likes of David Busby, Louis Ludik and Luke Marshall are also due to miss the start of the season through injury. South African starlet Ludik is still some months away from a comeback after stretchered off on the final day of last season. Meanwhile, both Busby and Marshall are on the road to recovery after anterior cruciate ligament tears.

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