EXCLUSIVE: Premiership Rugby could face demands for multi-million pound rebate from BT Sport if relegation is scrapped for the 2021-22 season
- Contingency planning has started amid fears the Championship won’t happen
- Proposal to grant automatic promotion to Saracens almost certain to be ratified
- BT Sport feel removing relegation adversely affects value of their product
- They are entitled to a rebate if the competition structure is altered during deal
Premiership Rugby will face demands for a multi-million-pound rebate from BT Sport if they pursue plans to scrap relegation next season and introduce a ring-fenced competition from the 2021-22 campaign.
As Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday, the anticipated mothballing of the Championship has left the Premiership scrambling to come up with a new competition structure for the next few seasons.
A proposal to grant automatic promotion to Saracens next year if necessary is almost certain to be ratified. The RFU are unlikely to block Saracens’ readmission given the club’s importance to Eddie Jones’ England set-up.
Saracens are set for a return to the Premiership next year even if they can’t earn it on-field
But such a move would have commercial implications, particularly if the Premiership embrace a closed-shop approach to the top tier. BT Sport are understood to have honoured last season’s £40milllion television deal in full, despite the interruption caused by the pandemic.
But the broadcasters feel strongly that removing the threat of relegation would adversely affect the value of their product.
They are contractually entitled to a rebate if the competition structure is altered midway through the contract.
If the Championship is cancelled until 2021/2022, Sarries could still return to the top-flight
BT Sport have already agreed rebates with football’s Premier League and Scottish Premier League due to last season’s schedule disruption.
Moving to a 13 or 14-team ring-fenced competition from the 2021-22 season — with talks ongoing over giving Ealing the option to buy their way into the Premiership — may also affect the value of the next TV contract. The current deal expires next summer.
Premiership Rugby are in advanced talks with BT Sport over signing an extension, but the broadcaster expects to pay less than the current £40m.
BT’s head of sport Simon Green has said: ‘I think everyone will be more discerning about what they pay, given the country is facing a potential recession which could leave viewers with less money in their pockets.’