Committee asked to investigate Six Nations paywall plans as Senedd back it remaining on free-to-air

(Title Image: Rugby World)

The Motion

The Senedd:

 

  • Notes the importance of sport of all kinds to cultural and civic identity in Wales and believes the ability to enjoy sports should be as accessible as possible to the widest range of our nation’s population.
  • Is concerned about reports that coverage of Six Nations rugby matches will only be available to view via pay-per-view in the future.
  • Believes that access to national rugby coverage is key to ensuring that young people participate in grassroots rugby.
  • Believes that the coverage of Wales Six Nations rugby games should continue to be available for all to view for free and calls on the Welsh Government to do everything in its ability to achieve this.

Sport has to be as accessible as possible

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) mentioned how much pleasure he gets from rugby and the growth of youth-grade rugby in Llangefni, but that interest was only generated from people being able to see the game played at the highest level and, like it or not, the men’s national rugby team was the most popular way of generating interest.

“….we only need to look at the viewing figures, not just for specific games, but how many people generally who watch Six Nations games – 82% of the population of Wales. That figure is astonishing, and it does show how much this game is integrated into our culture in Wales.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn) mentioned how participation in cricket fell after the sport went behind a paywall. With the Women’s Six Nations set to be paired to the men’s game in terms of TV rights, there was a danger that the growth in participation in women’s rugby over the last few years was under threat.

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) described Six Nations matches as “national treasures”, repeating that cricket saw a huge fall in participation since Sky won the rights and audiences for subsequent free-to-air cricket games like the World Cup were massively down on the 2005 Ashes.

“I have huge sympathy for the merits of this motion. I don’t have Sky TV and never have, but the financial model of the WRU is predicated on international rugby. If they can’t bring the revenues in, what’s the alternative to make sure that the grass-roots game and the professional game in Wales can have those revenues to be competitive?”
– Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central)

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) backed calls for the Six Nations to be a listed event/free-to-air only. Wearing both a cricket and rugby hat, Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) noted the loss of village cricket teams and that money at the top end of the sport didn’t help clubs at the bottom.

Issue of rugby finance “won’t go away”

Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) said the issue of money is rugby wasn’t going away:

The Deputy Minister suggested a Senedd Committee considers the matter further and the Interim Chair of the Culture Committee, Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) took him up on that offer.

While there was a recorded vote, the motion was unanimously approved.

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