BT Sport has extended its support and investment into club rugby after agreeing a new sponsorship deal with the four Welsh Regions - the Ospreys, the Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons.
The new multi-million pound agreement over three years is the largest joint sponsorship in the history of the four Regions and signals an exciting future partnership ahead between the successful broadcaster and Welsh regional rugby.
The partnership will include a commitment to community development programmes in Wales that will see BT working closely with the Regions to link the Welsh national sport and its rugby role models with technology, education and community investment in sport.
The deal sees the BT Sport logo appear on three Welsh Regions’ jerseys for the next three seasons; on the front of the home and away shirts to be worn by Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons and on the front of the Ospreys’ home shirt and the back of their away kit, with the front of the Ospreys’ away shirt already secured with another partner. As a key sponsor, BT Sport’s brand will feature prominently in all the Welsh regions home grounds, within community activity and in regional rugby marketing materials.
And for the first time, the Cardiff Blues have agreed naming rights for their iconic home ground - now to be known as “BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park”. The Cardiff Blues shirt sponsorship continues with Airbus Group (previously EADS), with BT Sport becoming kit sponsor to Cardiff Blues Women’s Rugby.
BT Sport already sponsors Scottish clubs Edinburgh and Glasgow in the RaboDirect Pro12 and the latest expansion of the broadcaster’s Celtic connections demonstrates its ongoing commitment to supporting the growth of club rugby in the UK. It has successfully broadcast this season’s Aviva Premiership and will share coverage of the new European Rugby Champions Cup with Sky Sports in a landmark deal announced in March 2014.
Ann Beynon, Director Wales, BT said: “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the four Regions and there are exciting times ahead as we embark on our new relationship with Welsh Rugby.
“Rugby is at the heart of BT Sport - we’re excited to support Regional Rugby and its distinct and dynamic culture, with all it stands for in terms of strength, determination, daring, passion and skill.
“We respect and want to support the passion of the very knowledgeable Welsh rugby communities and applaud the positive and progressive work being done by Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) and those overseeing and working within the four Welsh Regions.
“BT will build on this exciting new partnership with the Welsh Regions to expand its support for communities across Wales, with the roll-out of our high speed fibre broadband set to make a real difference - particularly in rural areas. We’ll see sport and technology working hand-in-hand.”
Nine months after their launch, BT's free sports channels are being watched over five million homes. BT TV has topped 1m subscribers, and the consumer division has increased its revenues for the first time in a decade.
Mark Davies, Acting Chief Executive of Regional Rugby Wales, the body which represents the four Welsh Regions, said: “It’s a time to celebrate the strides that the Welsh Regions are making to take the game forward in Wales with real unity, a common purpose, shared philosophy and commitment to ensuring that our businesses are sustainable.
“This is a clear vote of confidence in the Welsh Regions and we are delighted to be working alongside BT, a successful global brand that can see the real value in investing significantly in our Regional businesses, our 200 professional players and the rugby development structures we have in place.
“It’s great to have positive news for Regional Rugby as we all now look forward to a new season, with a new European competition and greater challenges in our PRO12 domestic league.”
The Four Welsh Regions have a collective turnover approaching £30m per annum, with a direct economic contribution to Wales in excess of £50m per annum. They provide employment for almost 1,000 people in a combination of full-time, part-time and casual roles including over 600 professional and semi-professional rugby players and more than 50 highly skilled coaching, conditioning and medical staff.
BT Sport holds the rights to Aviva Premiership and European Rugby Champions Cup along with coverage of various Sevens Rugby. Aviva Premiership coverage runs until the 2016/17 season and sees BT Sport broadcast up to 69 games per season with the broadcaster aiming to show three live games per weekend.
European Rugby Champions Cup is a four year agreement (subject to contract) and BT Sport will broadcast 35 games each season.
BT Sport broadcasts its magazine show Rugby Tonight weekly which sees rugby news, views and lively debate presented in front of a live TV audience.
BT Sport has announced it will continue to be free to customers with BT Broadband.
BT Sport channels are now taken by around five million homes just nine months after the channels went live for the first time last August. This makes BT Sport one of the fastest growing TV services ever launched in the UK.
BT Sport has announced that more than 19,000 pubs, clubs, betting shops, hotels and other commercial premises have now signed up to its sports service.
For more information visit: www.btsport.com. Follow @BTSport on Twitter for the latest news.
About BT: BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of five lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, BT Wholesale and Openreach.
For the year ended 31 March 2014, BT Group’s reported revenue was £18,287mwith reported profit before taxation of £2,312m.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. For more information, visit www.btplc.com.