Optus Won’t Bid For Rugby Despite Lions Tour Inclusion Claim Insiders
Optus will not take on Rugby Australia according to sources despite the inclusion of the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour in RA’s next broadcast deal.
Sources at the carrier have told ChannelNews that Rugby is seen as being in decline and “does not make sense” and that what is happening right now is “posturing” by management.
“Rugby Union in Australia is on a death roll attendance is down, few people are watching games yet Rugby Australia wants broadcasters to splash the cash for a code that is seriously struggling” said one insider.
Foxtel and News Corp who currently broadcast Rugby have moved to rein in costs associated with buying and delivering sports rights in Australia in an effort to get a better return on investment.
Rugby Australia have told media organisations that Optus, Foxtel and Network Ten have signed non-disclosure agreements relating to the next tender and that Castle still expects Foxtel to bid for the rights, despite the News Corp controlled business indicating that they are ready to walk away from the negotiations.
The partnership between Rugby Australia and Foxtel was thrown into disarray when Foxtel management made an offer which Castle, who many are claiming should stand down rejected.
A source close to Optus said, “CEO Allen Lew confirmed the telecommunications giant’s interest recently but that does not mean Optus will bid”.
ChannelNews understands that Castle was holding a Lions tour card up her sleeve in an effort to get a deal over the line.
The British and Irish Lions tour, which occurs every 12 years was designed to be a deal breaker due to the failure of Super Rugby to attract an audience.
Among the games on offer are three Test matches between the Wallabies and the British and Irish Lions along with five other games with local teams such as the Waratahs who have not won a game this season, the Reds, and Brumbies.
Compounding Castle’s problems is a World Cup campaign in 2019 that “flopped” and failed to attract the ratings or subscription sign ups that Foxtel was expecting.
Michael Cheika the former coach for the Australian team walked after indicating that he could not work with Castle who appears to be now fighting not only for a TV deal but her job as well.
According to the Financial Review Rugby Australia wants one prime time match — which will include an Australian team — available for free, preferably at 7.30pm on Saturdays. It’s believed the sport is hoping to secure a 7.30pm Saturday time slot for club rugby, Super Rugby and Wallabies matches, which are on the anti-siphoning list and are broadcast by Network Ten under the current deal.
The broadcast deal will include more than 400 games, including NSW and QLD club rugby rights, which open the room to create a new domestic club-based competition, potentially including Western Australia and Australian Capital Territory teams, focusing on suburban rugby clubs.
The new rights deal is the first time Rugby Australia has been able to offer a total package from provincial through to international rugby.