Rugby Australia could axe Raelene Castle over broadcast deal

Ruben Hill
February 8, 2020

Fox Sports, the Australian pay-television broadcaster, is ready to end its longstanding coverage of Australian rugby union as Rugby Australia's rights from 2021 onwards come to market, it has been claimed.

Sources revealed RA chief executive Raelene Castle and Foxtel boss Patrick Delaney have not spoken face to face in weeks, although emails had been traded.

"We are preparing to take the package to market early this month", a Rugby Australia spokesman told News Corp Australia.

Australian Rugby Coach Dave Rennie with Australia CEO Raelene Castle.

Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle speaks to the media during a press conference at Rugby AU headquarters in Sydney, Thursday, December 5, 2019.

Fox Sports and Network Ten are the current domestic broadcasters of rugby in Australia, with Fox Sports showing all Super Rugby games and both screening Wallabies Test matches.

"Preparations for Rugby Australia for the next five-year rights period have led to a focus on creating an alignment between rugby competitions in Australia", said a spokesperson.

Rugby Australia's current five-year rights deal is worth around $57 million a year, with Foxtel reportedly playing the majority of this sum.

Fox said he would quit rugby, sacking well-respected commentator Nick McArdle and former Wallaby Drew Mitchell from their roster, as well as reducing their weekly rugby show.

Rugby Australia is expected to bring its package to the open market in a fortnight.

It's a significant departure for the sporting code, which has recently suffered through long-term low ratings and a more recent homophobic row from now-ousted Israel Folau, as the code has been signed with Murdoch's News Corp since 1995.

During the World Cup in South Africa in that year, News Corp signed a "landmark" United States $550 million ($816 million) 10-year rights deal with the code to ensure the sports future in the professional era.

Rugby in Australia has had a hard time in recent years with declining interest in Super Rugby, highlighted by lower crowds and television viewing numbers.

Australia had a poor start to the Super season.

Fox Sports offered to pick up the $300,000 annual fee to show Shute Shield matches and Queensland club rugby games, with Seven - who have the rights until the end of 2024 - agreeing to the proposal.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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