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Foxtel ‘to be invited to bid’ in Rugby Australia rights auction

Wallabies players huddle during the 2019 Rugby Championship Test match against New Zealand (by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia will reportedly commence a process to secure a new broadcast rights contract this week, with pay-television operator Foxtel said to be among those who will be approached.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said Foxtel, commercial broadcasters Nine, Seven and Ten, digital platforms such as Amazon and telecoms operators Optus will be asked to sign non-disclosure agreements this week, ahead of Rugby Australia’s first open tender in 25 years.

Foxtel’s inclusion would come amid growing uncertainty over its status as the long-term home of Australian rugby. Fox Sports was last week reported to be ready to end its longstanding coverage as Rugby Australia’s rights from 2021 onwards come to market.

News Corp-owned newspaper The Australian reported that talks between Foxtel and Rugby Australia had “come to a halt”. Fox Sports broadcast the inaugural Super 12 season in 1996 and has backed Australian rugby ever since.

The Herald, citing sources involved, said the process to secure rights to Super Rugby, Australia Tests and club matches is expected to last for up to six weeks. Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany and other key figures are said to have been angered at Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle’s decision to stage an auction for the rights. However, as of Sunday night, Foxtel is reported to have not yet formally declared it won’t take part.

Rugby Australia’s current five-year rights agreement with Foxtel runs from 2016 to 2020 and is worth a total of A$285m (€175m/$192.4m). It covers the Rugby Australia properties and tournaments operated by Sanzaar, rugby union’s governing body in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

Rugby Australia is currently the only Sanzaar body not to have secured its broadcast rights through 2025.

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia is this week expected to complete a deal with streaming service Club Rugby TV, which currently controls rights to the Shute Shield Sydney club competition.