Free-to-air Six Nations rule could have 'devastating effect' on rugby

A rule that would keep the Six Nations on free-to-air TV could have a "devastating effect" on rugby, according to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

Sporting events are grouped by "national interest" with those in group A generally being restricted to free-to-air channels.

Politicians across the spectrum in Wales have recently called for the championship, which returns this weekend, to stay without a subscription fee.

But the WRU's new chief executive has written to Senedd members saying moving the Six Nations to the protected list could have a "devastating impact" on the game in Wales.

Abi Tierney was appointed to her role in August last year.

The first female chief executive of the sport's governing body in Wales was appointed after the previous chief executive stood down last year following allegations of sexism and misogyny within the organisation.

Ms Tierney said the position of the WRU is not that the championship should be "moved away from free-to-air television channels".

In her letter to the Senedd's culture committee, Ms Tierney said the restrictions "would artificially restrict the market" and impact the "earning potential to devastating effect".

"We need to retain the option to broadcast on subscription services, in order to keep the existing tension in the market," she added.

The WRU does not want to "diminish" rugby's reach but there is a "balance to be struck", Ms Tierney said.

The Welsh Conservatives have brought forward a motion to be debated in the Senedd on Wednesday, calling for the Six Nations to stay on free-to-air TV.

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But the responsibility for that decision ultimately lies with the UK government.

It recently rejected a call from the Commons' Welsh Affairs Committee to amend the listed events to include the Six Nations.

The Westminster government told the committee that listing an event in groups A or B did not guarantee it would be available free-to-air.