Rugby Australia is preparing to take a package for broadcast right to market this month, but it’s a move that is drawing furious commentary in media.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the FOX Sports executives now believe RA’s chief executive Raelene Castle never intended to strike a new deal with them. Talks between parties broke down on Wednesday.
The current pay television deal, signed in 2015 was worth $285 million, giving RA $57 million a year and due to expire at the end of 2020. The newspaper said she rejected their opening offer of $200 million, but remained silent for months without indicating her preferred price.
FOX Sports executives believe the RA boss scuppered a deal so she could take the struggling code onto free-to-air television on Network 10. The report suggests Castle was also gambling on a bid from Optus, which is yet to make any offer, to make up for any shortfall in funding.
A Network 10 spokesperson said, “We have a good, long term partnership with Rugby Australia and are looking forward to the formal broadcast rights process starting.”
Peter Campbell, head of FOX Sports, said, “We never comment on commercial negotiations or speculation about broadcast rights.
“FOX Sports will continue to be the home of rugby union with all Super Rugby, the Rugby Championship and Wallabies games in 2020.
“The rugby rights from 2021 onwards are a matter for Rugby Australia.”
An Optus spokesperson added, “As a matter of policy, Optus declines to comment on any speculation regarding programming rights.”