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SANZAAR without UK broadcaster, naming rights sponsor before Super Rugby AU

Australia (Nine and Stan Sport), New Zealand (Sky NZ), South Africa (SuperSport) and the Americas (ESPN) will show Super Rugby AU and New Zealand’s own five-team version, Super Rugby Aotearoa. But for the first time, supporters in the UK and Ireland won’t be able to tune into Super Rugby action.

Under the previous broadcast arrangement, from 2016 to 2020, viewers tuning into Sky in the UK were able to watch Super Rugby and even when the original 15-team competition was dismantled, Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa were offered as alternatives.

Reds second Angus Blyth celebrates with teammates after their victory over the Brumbies last year.

Reds second Angus Blyth celebrates with teammates after their victory over the Brumbies last year. Credit:Getty

Sources close to negotiations say no deal will be reached by the time the Australian competition begins on Friday.

SANZAAR, southern hemisphere rugby’s governing body, received roughly £20m a year (about $35.7m) from Sky UK in the last deal, which also included Rugby Championship matches.

“Because there has been so much uncertainty about what we are selling, it’s delayed the whole process,” new SANZAAR boss Brendan Morris told Stuff earlier this month.

There is a chance SANZAAR and Sky Sports could strike a deal after the season begins. The fact Super Rugby Aotearoa does not begin until next Saturday means there is hope a resolution can be reached soon.

SANZAAR face a number of obstacles in their bid to ink a new broadcast deal with those in the northern hemisphere. Sky Sport has invested large sums into this year’s British and Irish Lions series against South Africa but even that tour is up in the air due to COVID-19.

There is a chance the series could be moved to Australia, which will be being discussed at a Lions board meeting on Thursday (UK time).

Six Nations broadcast rights are also up for renegotiation. It would be almost unfathomable for a UK broadcaster not to show Wallabies matches, which is why administrators are confident an agreement will be reached.

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Sky in New Zealand will show both matches on Friday evening while the Kiwi pay-TV network announced on Thursday it would show Japanese Top League matches, which begin this weekend. Stan is in the market to buy rights for other rugby competitions around the world and sources say talks with the Top League have been positive.

Meanwhile, RA is yet to announce a naming rights sponsor for Super Rugby AU.

With Vodafone discontinuing its sponsorship, having signed a four-year deal for 2017 to 2020, RA has been talking to a number of interested parties but say nothing has been agreed.

RA has also not announced a replacement major sponsor for the Wallabies after Qantas pulled its funding last year after a 30-year relationship with Australian rugby.

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