Assembly Members have written to the Welsh Rugby Union to ask them to do whatever they can to ensure that the Six Nations remains free for everyone to watch.
Fears have been raised after The Six Nations entered a period of negotiation with private equity firm CVC. The deal would provide a financial boost to each union but would mean partly surrendering control of the competition, which could mean selling the broadcasting rights to a paywall channel.
The UK Govt are refusing to add the Six Nations to a list of sports events which must be made available to watch live on free-to-air channels.
The Broadcasting Act 1996 gives the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport the power to draw up a list of sporting events of national interest. This means that the broadcast rights to these events must be offered to the main free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters on “fair and reasonable terms”.
The list currently includes the Rugby and Football World Cup Finals, Grand National, Wimbledon, FA and Scottish FA Cup Final and the Olympic and Paralympic games. However the Six Nations championship is not included.
The letter signed by 15 Labour Assembly Members asks the WRU to attempt to resist a move to a pay-to-view service.
“We ask you to strongly resist any moves to place these matches behind paywalls, which would put distance between the national team and and the nation of Wales, and between Welsh fans and players and our national game of rugby,” the letter signed by 15 Labour Assembly Members says.
“We have alrady seen what happens when sport disappears behind paywalls: when broadcasting rights for cricket were bought by Sky, participation rates plummeted in the following decade; and when Sky took formula 1 behind a paywall, audience viewing rates in the UK crashed.
“We want to avoid the worrying prospect of participation in grassroots rugby in Wales and support for our national team being devestated by hiding the showcase of the game – the Six Nations matches – behind pay-to-view channels. The importance of rugby to our culture is hard to overstate, as is the importance of the Six Nations to inspiring the next generation of players.”