BT Sport to air all remaining matches when Premiership Rugby returns
BT Sport, the UK pay-television broadcaster, will show every match played behind closed doors for the remainder of the season in English rugby union’s top-tier Premiership Rugby.
In what it described as a “ground-breaking agreement," the broadcaster said it will provide coverage of “more matches than ever before," beginning with all six matches in the opening round of the restart from 14 August.
Once fans are allowed back in stadiums, BT will return to showing selected matches exclusively live in each round as part of its four-year rights deal, which runs to 2021.
Premiership Rugby will finally make its return next week after being suspended since 16 March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The league is adopting the same model as English soccer's Premier League, which aired all of its matches for the rest of the season after it resumed in June.
In addition, the pay-TV operator will also work with the league and its clubs to offer eligible season ticket holders free coverage to home matches via the BT Sport App.
The BT Sport ‘Match Pass’ has been specifically designed for season ticket holders of participating clubs who are not BT Sport subscribers and cannot attend their home matches due to the current Covid-19 restrictions.
Under the initial agreement, BT will show all 57 remaining fixtures up until the Premiership Final, which is set for 24 October, although there will be the possibility for a limited number of fans to attend games in the coming months.
The league remains hopeful it can welcome back reduced crowds at some point during its resumption but will not have been encouraged by the recent decision to scrap plans to allow fans back at specific pilot events in the country due to a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Commercial broadcaster Channel 5 will show four games free-to-air as part of its rights deal with the league.
The production of BT Sport’s live matches is provided by Sunset+Vine, the UK-based television sports production and media company.
The Premiership Rugby season will resume with Harlequins vs Sale Sharks next Friday.
Meanwhile, professional rugby union is also set to make its return in South Africa after the government approved national body SA Rugby's return-to-play conditions for the sport.
The body has outlined plans to resume domestic competitions in the first two weeks of September with games to be played behind closed doors.
Jurie Roux, SA Rugby chief executive, said “plans on the structure of the planned competition will be announced in due course, as we have various options to consider."
South Africa’s teams in the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby and Europe's Pro14 clubs competitions have been inactive for almost five months as a result of the pandemic.
The union is also keen for its players to return ahead of the The Rugby Championship, the national teams competition set to take place in New Zealand in November.