Premiership Rugby facing rebate demands after London Irish suspension

EXCLUSIVE: Premiership Rugby faces MORE issues as BT Sport demands a multi-million pound rebate after it was confirmed that the competition will shrink to just ten teams next season after London Irish’s suspension

  • London Irish were suspended from the Gallagher Premiership on Tuesday 
  • It means that the competition will shrink to just ten teams from next season 
  • Broadcasters BT Sports are demanding a multi-million pound rebate  

Premiership Rugby clubs are facing further financial problems with their main broadcast partner BT Sport demanding a multi-million pound rebate following confirmation that the competition will shrink to 10 teams next season. 

Mail Sport has learned that preliminary discussions over BT’s compensation demands began after Wasps and Worcester were kicked out of the Gallagher Premiership earlier in the season and negotiations are now expected to intensify after London Irish’s demise was confirmed yesterday.

BT have one season remaining on a three-year deal worth £110million with Premiership Rugby, but have lost almost one-quarter of the clubs who were due to compete, which they are arguing has significantly reduced the value of the TV contract. 

The broadcaster’s frustration is compounded by the fact that they will be rebranded as TNT Sports this summer after being bought by Warner Brothers Discovery, so are conscious about having compelling products to attract and retain customers.

Premiership Rugby are sympathetic to BT’s position, but will fight hard to limit the size of the rebate, as many of their remaining 10 clubs are beset by financial problems. 

London Irish were suspended on Tuesday after the club failed to pay all their staff for May

Next season’s Gallagher Premiership will now only have ten teams following the withdrawal 

BT Sport are demanding a multi-million pound rebate and their frustration is compounded as they look to keep customers at a time when they will be re-branded as TNT Sports this summer 

Covid-19 loans from government have yet to be repaid, while the loss of three clubs will lead to a significant reduction in their gate receipts next season.

One potential compromise which has been mentioned in the talks would be for Premiership Rugby to offer TNT Sports a discount on the next three-year rights cycle beginning in 2024, negotiations over which are due to begin shortly. 

Despite Premiership Rugby’s best efforts to hold a competitive tender process it is understood there has so far been little interest from elsewhere.

Sky Sports have just spent over £1billion securing the next five years of EFL live matches from 2024, and their immediate priorities are retaining the majority of live Premier League rights after 2025 and securing rugby league’s Super League from next season in a cut-price deal.

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