Sky Sports are reportedly leading the race for broadcast rights to the Six Nations from 2022. Prepare for rugby to become a low-profile, niche sport — with shiny new, under-used facilities.
There is a sense of inevitability about this wholesale drift towards pay TV and online subscription services.
The Rugby Paper revealed that Sky are poised to capitalise as the BBC and ITV are not allowed to join forces to keep the annual championship on terrestrial channels. If that is the case, the sport’s shop window could be closing very soon. It is unlikely to re-open.
Sky are leading the way for broadcast rights to the Six Nations from 2022 onwards
This is such a familiar debate and dilemma in this country and worldwide — short-term investment versus the long-term benefits of mass exposure.
Well, this column cannot fathom the benefit of funding for new posts and balls, community coaches and clubhouse refurbs if the next generation do not see the game, acquire heroes and strive to emulate them.
The home unions and their global counterparts must think carefully about every step they take at this critical juncture.
In this part of the world, the Six Nations brings rugby to wider prominence. Audience figures of up to 10 million suggest a vast, enduring appetite for the tournament. The game must work hard to sustain that appeal.
Wales won last year's Six Nations, and their win against England attracted 8.9m viewers
With CVC securing commercial rights left, right and centre, there will be seismic upheaval ahead.
The Six Nations will go to pay TV or an online subscription service. If it isn’t the next deal, it will be the one after. Public awareness will decline. In time, England could win a Grand Slam and the players will go unrecognised in the street.
Rugby will be given a make-over involving daft kick-off times to suit distant markets.
Perhaps the accountants will decide that a franchise system works best, so certain clubs may be moved lock, stock and barrel to wealthier towns or cities.
They might also decide that nations without commercial clout should not be included in marquee competitions, even the World Cup.
This code is in danger of selling its soul.
Justin Tipuric is a proper local hero. The Wales flanker could have accepted a lucrative offer to move to France or England but instead he has signed for three more years at the Ospreys, after a decade of sterling service to his home region.
Wales flanker Justin Tipuric has committed his club future to Ospreys despite other offers
Tipuric is a remarkable talent, but there is nothing flash about him except how he plays. He is a low-key legend.
Now the Ospreys have Toby Booth