RFU awaiting huge rebate bill of £6m from Sky Sports for fixture shake-up following cancellation of the autumn internationals
- It comes amid uncertainty over TV rights deal for the replacement ‘Eight Nations’
- Sportsmail has learned that Sky Sports are entitled to a £6million rebate
- RFU await the bill as a result of the cancellation of matches vs New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Tonga
The RFU are facing multi-million-pound broadcast penalties following the cancellation of the autumn internationals.
This comes amid uncertainty over the TV rights deal for the replacement ‘Eight Nations’ tournament.
Sportsmail has learned that Sky Sports are entitled to a £6million rebate as a result of the cancellation of England’s matches against New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Tonga. Sky do not automatically have the rights to this autumn’s tournament, which are subject to a new tender process.
England’s matches against New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Tonga had been cancelled
Sky remain the most likely broadcasters of England’s pool games — against Wales, Ireland and Fiji in November — as they have space in their schedule and deeper pockets than their rivals, but are expected to bid significantly less than the value of their existing RFU contract.
That £30m, five-year deal was negotiated at the top of a very competitive broadcast market in 2014, when Sky were desperate to keep hold of prime live rights having recently lost football’s Champions League to BT Sport, and there is a feeling within the company that they overpaid.
In addition, the hastily-arranged matches against England’s traditional Six Nations rivals do not have the same appeal as a re-run of last year’s epic World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, who have only visited Twickenham once in the last six years.
The RFU face multi-million-pound broadcast penalties following the cancellation of matches
A failure to recoup the Sky rebate would represent another blow to the RFU, who are projected to lose around £100m this year due to Covid-19, which led them to announce plans to cut 139 jobs earlier this month.
There is also uncertainty about the number of fans who will be able to attend matches at Twickenham this autumn.
The RFU had hoped to operate at 50 per cent — around 40,000 — but, following talks with the Government, they have downgraded their ambitions to between 20,000 and 25,000.
As a result, they are expected to prioritise selling tickets to debenture holders and corporate clients, to the wrath of ordinary England fans.
World Rugby are set to ratify the new Eight Nations tournament by the end of this week — with a working title of the Nations Cup.
There is uncertainty over the number of fans who will be able to attend games at Twickenham
And Sportsmail can reveal the intended order of England’s fixtures.
They will open the competition against Fiji at Twickenham on November 14, then face Ireland the following Saturday at home. Eddie Jones’s side will conclude the group stage ‘away’ to Wales — although the match may be played in London if Government restrictions on fans in grounds are tighter over the border.
The RFU also intend, it is understood, to set up two England Women fixtures against France around the same time.
Meanwhile, new Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick says he has not negotiated a break clause to tour South Africa with the Lions in 2021 as a coach on Warren Gatland’s team.
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