The United Rugby Championship (URC) will be broadcast free-to-air across Italy, as a result of an agreement signed with the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) and broadcaster Mediaset.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mediaset will broadcast all URC games from 24 September onwards, beginning with South Africa’s Emirates Lions away game against Zebre in Parma, as part of Round One of the competition.
The arrangement builds on similar free-to-air deals struck in Ireland, via RTE and TG4; Northern Ireland via BBC NI and Wales via BBC Wales and S4C.
The tournament – one of the three major rugby union leagues in Europe along with the English Premiership and French Top14 – sees teams compete from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and South Africa, with clubs from the latter country joining this year.
In Italy, Mediaset will screen all games featuring local sides Benetton and Zebre, beginning with the former’s Round One fixture against Stormers on 25 September.
Martin Anayi, United Rugby Championship CEO, said: “This is a great result for the sport of rugby in Italy as we align the introduction of four elite teams from South Africa and the launch of on Mediaset’s Free to Air platforms so that the United Rugby Championship and its teams can enjoy so much more exposure.
“There is a momentum building in Italian club rugby and Benetton’s triumph over the Vodacom Bulls in the Rainbow Cup Final last June is evidence of that. Thanks to the work of the FIR and the enthusiasm of Mediaset we believe the teams, the sport and the URC can make a greater impact across the sporting landscape in Italy.”
Marzio Innocenti, FIR President, emphasised the deal’s significance in promoting and developing both rugby union and the tournament in Italy, explaining that this is a goal that the FIR is ‘strongly focused on’ by reaching audiences through free-to-air broadcasting.
“Benetton Rugby’s Rainbow Cup victory illustrated how committed the whole of Italian rugby is to act as a main character in the new United Rugby Championship,” he remarked.
I’m confident we will be competitive from the very start, as Benetton and Zebre’s internationals will train and compete at their best chasing a call-up to the national squad, alongside our emerging young talent that will raise the internal competition.”
Expanding the reach of rugby union has been a core objective of the URC in recent months, with the competition notably partnering with US sports consultancy agency Roc Nation in order to ‘drive innovation, community and integrity’ in July.