A Renfrewshire MP has called on rugby bosses to make sure Scotland’s top rugby stars stay on our screens and stay free to view.
Recent reports have suggested TV coverage the Six Nations will be hived off after next year’s Championship, with Sky and Amazon said to be favourites to secure the rights.
The moves threaten to black out rugby from Scottish screens, with the BBC and STV potentially frozen out of showing the national team and fans forced to fork out hundreds of pounds in subscription charges.
Current law allows the UK Government to ‘list’ sporting events, and make it compulsory for them to be made available live to free to view TV stations, but the Six Nations doesn’t currently qualify.
Gavin Newlands, the SNP Westminster Spokesperson on Sport, called on the authorities to sort the situation quickly, before a decision is taken ahead of the final fixtures of this years’ Six Nations, and has written to the Chief Executive of Six Nations Rugby asking for a rethink – as well as pushing the UK Culture Secretary to justify the current exclusion of rugby from the listed events.
Mr Newlands, said: “Removing Scotland’s national rugby team from free to air will be a disaster for the sport and for the prospects of getting young people involved in the game.
“As a former player and past President of Paisley Rugby Club I know how important it is to get younger players involved, and having their heroes and heroines on screen regardless of ability to pay is a vital recruitment tool for clubs right across Scotland.
“You only have to look at cricket in England, who sold their TV rights to Sky in 2005 and have seen interest in their sport plunge to the extent they’ve had to invent new competitions to get them back on the box.
“Events like the World Cup and European Championships are protected as national events to ensure that we are all able to share in the successes – and sometimes failures – of our sporting representatives, and it is surely time for the UK Government to look at protecting the Six Nations from pay TV.
“I’ve asked a number of questions of the UK Government on this and I want answers on what they are going to do to ensure rugby fans aren’t kicked into touch.”