Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith has challenged the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to do everything it can to ensure that television coverage of Welsh Six Nations matches remain free-to-view.
Mr Smith is one of 17 Welsh Labour MPs who have signed a letter to WRU Chairman Gareth Davies, citing concerns about television rights to the Six Nations.
The letter explains that MPs are uneasy about the forthcoming negotiations over broadcasting rights for the annual rugby tournament.
It reads: “As we understand it, from 2021 a share of the rights is now held by CVC Capital Partners and is likely to be packaged in with the autumn internationals and summer tours, at least partly behind a paywall.”
Mr Smith, a keen rugby fan who watches local teams in Blaenau Gwent, said it was vital that access to the Six Nations was not impeded.
“As we have seen with sports like Formula 1 and cricket, when events move away from free-to-view TV it decreases viewership and therefore also decreases interest and engagement,” said Mr Smith.
“We cannot let that happen to rugby internationals. Especially here in Wales and Blaenau Gwent where the sport is such an important part of our history and culture.
“My fellow Welsh Labour MPs and I have sought reassurances from the WRU that every effort will be made to prevent Welsh matches, especially in the Six Nations, moving to subscription-based channels.”
We are writing to you as a group of Welsh MPs regarding the forthcoming negotiations of the broadcasting rights for the Six Nations tournament.
As we understand it, from 2021 a share of the rights is now held by CVC Capital Partners and is likely to be packaged in with the autumn internationals and summer tours, at least partly behind a paywall.
Removing Six Nations broadcasting rights from free-to-view television could lead the sport down the same path as Formula 1 which saw UK viewership figures crash following new contracts giving exclusive rights to Sky. Similarly, the participation rates in cricket dropped by 20% in the 10 years after broadcasting rights were sold to Sky, despite the argument that extra money would be invested in grassroots cricket.
The evidence is clear, that limiting access to sports on television by handing over rights increasingly to subscription-based broadcasters decreases viewership and participation. In Wales this is even more critical in relation to rugby given its importance in our national culture.
We would welcome reassurance that the WRU will do everything it can to keep Welsh matches, particularly in the Six Nations, on free-too-view television. We look forward to your response. Kind regards,
Kevin Brennan MP
Tonia Antoniazzi MP
Anna McMorrin MP
Alex Davies-Jones MP
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP
Nick Smith MP
Jessica Morden MP
Chris Bryant MP
Jo Stevens MP
Stephen Kinnock MP
Beth Winter MP
Carolyn Harris MP
Christina Rees MP
Gerald Jones MP
Chris Elmore MP
Wayne David MP
Stephen Doughty MP