Pubs and clubs across Australia were left frustrated on Friday as a deal between Stan Sports and Sky Channel to show Super Rugby AU matches collapsed at the last minute.
Reports have said that Sky Channel’s parent company Tabcorp cancelled the deal on the eve of the season kick-off. The season’s opening game between the Reds and Waratahs was shown on Nine Entertainment Channel, 9 Gem, but the second game between the Force and Brumbies was shown on Nine-owned Stan Sports, meaning venues could not show the game.
A spokesperson for Nine confirmed to The Shout that there is no deal in place to show Super Rugby AU in venues, but the company remains hopeful a deal can still be worked out.
“There is no deal in place currently but we are hopeful of having a resolution soon so fans who want to enjoy the game of Rugby in their local can,” the spokesperson said.
What makes the late calling off of the live coverage for venues all the more galling is the heavy publicity that Stan Sports has put behind its Super Rugby coverage. Meaning many venues were full of keen rugby patrons, who only ended up disappointed.
CEO of the Australian Hotels Association, Stephen Ferguson, told The Shout it was very surprising and disappointing not to see the Super Rugby in venues on Friday night.
“It’s extremely disappointing hotel patrons cannot watch all Super Rugby matches,” Ferguson said.
“You would have thought the ARU would be attempting to promote the game as much as possible. Unfortunately when the broadcast deal was done, it did not include licenced venues.
“It’s surprising a major sporting code has no plans as to how to get vision of their game into pubs and accommodation hotels – especially when these businesses have backed them for years.
“The AHA has been making urgent representations to both Stan and the ARU on the matter.
“For the ARU to restrict the ability for patrons to watch rugby, at a time when the sport is facing significant competition from the other winter codes, does not make sense.”
Patrick Galloway, Co-Founder of Sportsyear, which provides automated sports scheduling and digital marketing for many of Australia’s leading live sports venues, told The Shout that the outcome is a slap in the face for pubs and clubs.
“For venues to have been left high and dry in this manner, is a really disappointing outcome,” he said.
“Rugby is a crucial driver of foot-traffic in Australia’s hospitality industry and it makes no sense that a deal could not be done before the start of the season.”
Galloway added that the lack of a deal for venues to show any Stan Sports broadcasts could have on-running consequences.
“As well as Super Rugby AU, Stan Sport also has rights to New Zealand Super Rugby, Shute Shield and the SuperW, Japanese and South African rugby competitions, the Australian Wallaroos and it may possibly secure the 2021 Lions Tour, so there is a lot of content at stake here,” Galloway told The Shout.
“The best Australia’s hospitality industry can do for now, is ensure they are prepared for the future of sports broadcasting in hospitality.
“Operators need to start to think about their capacity to stream live sport in venue, by making sure they have a strong WiFi connection and can get online content, onto their big screen or onto a well-placed television in venue.
“Stan Sport have mentioned they may consider offering a commercial streaming option, given this Tabcorp deal has stalled.
“But whether it’s via a Stan Sport commercial offer, or something later down the road, the future of sports broadcasting is streaming. Technology like Sportsyear, which uses data to optimise a sports schedule and marketing will enable venues to capitalise on this future, when it arrives.”
The Shout has contacted Tabcorp for comment, but has not had a response by the time of publication. However Fairfax Media has reported a Tabcorp spokesperson said there had been an agreement in place with Stan Sport but following an internal approval Tabcorp decided not to proceed.