Placing Six Nations behind paywall would ‘price Welsh people out of their own culture and identity’

Wales’ Josh Adams scores a try during a Six Nations match at the national stadium in Cardiff.

Putting the Six Nations behind a paywall will endanger Welsh culture and identity, politicians have warned.

Yesterday the competition’s organisers refused to rule out the possibility of the competition going behind a £300m paywall in 2022 after the next television rights bids are lodged this month.

The Rugby Paper said Sky Sports had become favourites to land a deal worth £300m and bring the Six Nations off terrestrial television “until 2024 at the earliest”.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price AM and Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts MP have written to the Westminster Secretary of State for Digital, Culture and Media, Oliver Dowden, demanding the Six Nations continue as “free to air”.

They said that to move the games beyond a paywall would be “nothing short of disastrous” for rugby in Wales as not everyone could afford a satellite subscription.

They added that the six nations and rugby is “an integral part of Welsh culture and identity” and that Welsh people would soon be “priced out of their own culture” – adding that it was “bitterly ironic” the reports came to light on St David’s Day.

They called on Oliver Dowden to utilise his powers as the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and list the Six Nations games as a “Group A” event, which under the Broadcasting Act 1996, would require the even to remain on free to air TV.

Group A events, which require full live coverage to be offered on free to air TV, currently include the FA Cup Final, the Grand National and the Olympic Games.

Labour Assembly Members have also 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.

Six Nations matches have been on terrestrial television since England’s home games were shown exclusively on Sky from 1997 to 2000. They are currently free to watch after a joint bid by BBC and ITV.

However, no joint bids are being allowed in the next round of negotiations.

“By ruling out any joint bids it’s almost as if the Six Nations are clearing the way for Sky,” the Rugby Paper quotes an industry source as saying. “There is a very real danger that they will be prepared to sacrifice the big audiences on BBC and ITV for more money.”

 

‘Not for sale’

Writing to Oliver Dowden MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Adam Price and Liz Saville Roberts said:

“For these iconic games to move beyond a paywall would be nothing short of disastrous for rugby in Wales.

“There are many in Wales who cannot afford satellite television and watching the games in a pub is not always accessible to everyone.

“Both the Six Nations and the game of rugby itself is an integral part of Welsh culture and identity.  It is bitterly ironic that as we celebrate St David’s Day – the patron saint of Wales, and take pride in all the little things that make us proud to be Welsh, we discover that we may soon be priced out of our own culture.

“We, therefore, call upon you to utilise your powers as the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and list the Six Nations Games as part of “Group A” – a guaranteed free to air event if a paywall is imposed.

“This must be applied to all Welsh games because of the particular place of rugby in our national culture. We stand firm in our belief that Welsh rugby is not for sale and that it belong to everyone in Wales.”

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RhosdduGlenK. KJohnny GambleRobert Williams Recent comment authors
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Charles L. Gallagher
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Charles L. Gallagher

Money, money, money it has spoiled football and now it’s about to spoil rugby. This proposal affects more than just Wales as there are many people that enjoy rugby in the UK and Ireland who can’t afford Sky. So, we must make a united protest over this.

Glen
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Glen

So “Welsh culture and identity” consists of nothing more than getting rat-arsed, wearing a silly daffodil hat and repeating two lines of Hymns and Arias ad nauseam.
Don’t remember the same outrage from politicians when Welsh football fans were abandoned by BBC Wales.

Leigh Richards
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Leigh Richards

Like it or not rugby is our national game and how weve presented ourselves to the world as a nation for over 120 years. Rugby is embedded in our culture, and no question our successes in that 120 years have helped shape our modern sense of welsh national identity. And the wales football team werent abandoned by bbc wales glen – the FAW chose to go over to sky

Glen
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Glen

BBC refused to increase their offer to match Sky saying they had no more money available.
Weeks later they signed a record deal with the WRU.
There has always been an incetuous relationship between BBC Wales and Welsh rugby (every “Head of Sport” at BBC Wales had been a former rugby international) I hope it’s about to end.

K. K
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K. K

Sorry Glen but the FAW were offered big money to move to Sky which they did and which was done shrewdly looking back as the team were in the process of dropping down the rankings and rebuilding. I am a Welsh football fan first and foremost but regardless of your views on rugby it really is one of the great unifiers of our nation. 82% is a phenomenal number of people in this day and age and I really do hope that the WRU aren’t about to cash in. I remember the England games on Sky and nobody really cared… Read more »

Glen
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Glen

They were not ‘offered big money’ by any stretch of imagination, just a better deal than BBC Wales derisory offer.
BBC Wales resent spending money covering any sport other than rugby.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

Perhaps that’s true, but you’ll appreciate why, in Wales, that may be the case. 82%, including my mam!

Johnny Gamble
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Johnny Gamble

Rugby is not our National Sport. More than double the number of Welsh people play and watch Football more than Rugby. Swansea City get double the fan’s for home games than the Ospreys and Scarlets put together.
The overwhelming majority of people who follow Wales in the 6 Nations be it the Millennium stadium or on their tellies are only Patriots for 80 minutes. The rest of the time they are Pro Unionists who couldn’t care less about Wales.

K. K
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K. K

All a bit debatable though Johnny. I’ve followed Wales since I was kid and I remember going to watch them as recently as 2011 when they beat Montenegro and barely anyone turned up despite a fine 2-1 win. Likewise, Cardiff fans deserted the club until Neil Warnock came along getting crowds of 13,000 for some games and closing the new stand on occasion too. Football may be more popular but the fans simply don’t bother when the success isn’t there. Rugby however nationally is something that continues to draw crowds and TV audiences even when they have been abysmal. Furthermore,… Read more »

Glen
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Glen

The season pre-Warnock the average att. was 16.564.
How the sham rugby ‘regions’ would love a crowd of 13,000.

Leigh Richards
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Leigh Richards

A appalling prospect, and something which i think will impact on peoples sense of welsh identity. Rugby is uniquely important to people in wales, indeed for over 120 years its how weve presented ourselves to the world as a nation. And certainly the many successes of the wales rugby team down the years has helped forge a sense of welsh nationhood among people. 82 percent of people in Wales watch 6 nations games – that figure will collapse if it moves to pay per view. Many people in wales simply cant afford to pay for sky or bt sport. And… Read more »

Robert Williams
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Robert Williams

Leigh sums up the issues very accurately. We may lament that so many in Wales are match-day only Welsh people, but it is a fact, and nothing anything like as much to our national conversation as rugby, and specifically the 6 Nations. This tournament involves people who normally have little or no interest in rugby. I seem to remember that even my grandmother was interested when Wales played England. I don’t know who exactly are the elements within the body of people who run the 6 Nations are pressing for this deal with Sky, but have had a pretty bad… Read more »

Jason Evans
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Jason Evans

If this happens it will be absolutely atrocious and all to line the pockets of a few greedy individuals cos you can guarantee grassroots rugby won’t benefit in any way. I certain won’t be able to watch it and nigh on everyone I’ve talk to so far is in a similar position. The Government already moans about inactivity amongst children so what better way to disenfranchise them from sport even more by putting another competition out of the reach of their parents. In an ideal world we could do something about this (or i should say those who can afforded… Read more »