BBC, ITV 'in joint Six Nations bid'
An announcement on the TV rights for the Six Nations is due on Thursday with the BBC having teamed up with ITV in a bid to keep the tournament on terrestrial television.
The RBS 6 Nations is on the BBC until 2017 but cuts to the broadcaster's budget has led to speculation it would be outbid by Sky.
Labour's shadow sports minister Clive Efford has claimed that it would be a "huge mistake" for the tournament to be limited to pay TV and would mean the absence of all top-level rugby union from terrestrial television.
An announcement is expected on Thursday afternoon and sources with knowledge of the negotiations have confirmed the BBC and ITV have been working on a combined bid.
Efford warned of a backlash if there is no coverage on BBC or ITV.
Efford told Press Association Sport: "I have made inquiries and I understand this is a serious bid from the BBC and ITV and one to be welcomed.
"It's healthy for sports to have some of their elite events on terrestrial TV and rugby needs to have access to a platform that is accessible to everyone if it wants to grow and inspire the next generation.
"I think if the Six Nations followed the elite club competitions and England's autumn internationals on to pay TV there would be a backlash and pressure would be put on politicians to put it on the A-list of sporting events."
The BBC has the current rights until 2017, believed to be worth £40million a year.
The Rugby Football Union sees value in the sport having a higher profile on terrestrial TV while Sky subscribers benefit via the autumn internationals on Sky.
Some Celtic unions, especially Scotland, are understood to be more open to seeing the tournament on Sky or BT Sport if it means more income for them.
The deadline for tenders was last week and expectations that Sky - which currently has the rights to England's autumn internationals and showed the last British Lions tour - would win the rights outright did not materialise.
Efford claimed the government's cuts to the BBC meant it was inevitable it would struggle to secure sports rights.
He said: "The threat of these huge cuts is that things we have seen on BBC may come to an end as they don't have the commercial possibility to increase revenue. That's a serious problem and could have dire consequences.
"It is therefore a sensible move by terrestrial TV stations to work together."