Lions tour of South Africa gets green light with Sky on board
The British and Irish Lions, the international rugby union side made up of the best players from the UK and Ireland, will tour South Africa as planned next year, with all matches to be shown live back home by pay-television operator Sky.
There had been reports in recent months that, as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which is still very much active in South Africa, there could be a change to the dates or a postponement.
However, the Lions have today confirmed that the 2021 tour will run from 3 July to 7 August and comprise three test matches against defending world champions South Africa and five other games.
It will be the Lions' first visit to the country since 2009.
Ben Calveley, the Lions’ managing director, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to the sporting calendar, but after extensive discussions we are now able to confirm that the tour dates are as previously announced.
“An enormous amount of planning, especially from a logistical perspective, goes into putting on a Lions series, so it was crucial that a decision was agreed upon in good time.”
Jurie Roux, SA Rugby’s chief executive, added: “The whole of South Africa is looking forward to welcoming the Lions and we continue progressing our plans to provide travelling supporters with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Sky has been the UK TV home of the Lions since the 1997 tour of South Africa and has confirmed an exclusive rights deal for next year's matches.
In addition to the coverage on linear channels, Sky will make games available on Now TV, the streaming service which offers daily, weekly and monthly passes to all Sky Sports channels, and offer content on its digital and social media platforms.
Rob Webster, managing director of Sky Sports, said: “There are a handful events in the sporting calendar that truly transcend their sport, and a Lions Tour is one of them. We're hugely proud of our association with the Lions.”