Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Brian Cowen’s plea over Six Nations on TV

Taoiseach Brian Cowen wants Six Nations matches to remain free to view on terrestrial television channels in Ireland.

Mr Cowen's comments come after a row erupted over the suggestion by the Republic’s Environment Minister Eamon Ryan that Heineken Cup games should be free to watch.

Yesterday, Sky bosses met Mr Ryan to discuss the divisive proposals. Sources close to those talks said there had been a “full airing of the issues”.

Both Sky and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), who are opposed to Mr Ryan's plans, are expected to make submissions to ahead of a July 4 deadline.

The IRFU claims that wrestling the matches off the sports channels will cost it £10.4m and cause severe financial turmoil for the professional sport. Rugby fans can currently view Six Nations matches for free on RTE, without having to pay any subscription fees to satellite broadcasters.

However, Heineken Cup matches are exclusive to Sky Sports — meaning fans have to pay for the broadcast or go to the pub to watch the game. The Six Nations matches are much more lucrative for sports channels. However, RTE's broadcasting rights over the tournament expire in 2013.

“What we have free to air, I'd like to see retained. Obviously, we want to make sure that any developments are consistent with the development of the sports that are doing so well for us internationally,” Mr Cowen said.

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