Rugby World Cup

World Cup TV deal has rugby fans fuming

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am

Fans are fuming that the Rugby World Cup will be shown exclusively on i-Cable rather than Now Broadband TV and have criticised the station for not promoting the tournament.

Rugby's premier event will be from September 7 to October 20. France is the host, but some games will be in Britain.

PCCW's Now Broadband TV broadcasts most of the popular international rugby competitions on ESPN, ESPN Star Sports and the Australian Network, and many fans had mistakenly believed the channel would broadcast the World Cup.

Now Broadband TV and i-Cable Communications have been involved in an expensive battle for sporting supremacy since Now paid a record US$200 million for exclusive rights to the English Premier League for three seasons.

I-Cable has since picked up the rights to the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa and the Beijing Olympics next August.

Now Broadband TV defended its decision not to bid for the rugby tournament, saying it offered a wide variety of sport. 'We cover lots of rugby now and have a variety of other sporting programmes for our subscribers,' a spokeswoman said.

Tony Ryan, a coach for the Discovery Bay Pirates mini rugby team and on the girls' rugby committee, said i-Cable had not promoted the fact that it had the rights to the tournament.

'This is a massive tournament, and rugby is a big sport in Hong Kong and is expanding every year. While there is a knowledge in the rugby fraternity that the World Cup is on i-Cable, most fans don't seem to realise it,' he said.

'I-Cable really should get out and promote the fact they have this event and do their bit for the sport.'

Stephen Anderson, managing director of the Kangaroo Down Under pubs in Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong, also criticised i-Cable for not offering any special packages to bars to broadcast the games.

'This just means that many people are going to be turning to illegal means,' he said. 'I-Cable offers nothing to us besides the tournament since they lost the Premier League rights.

'You really have to wonder what Now TV was thinking by not bidding for the tournament.'

An i-Cable spokeswoman defended the broadcaster's promotion of the event and the decision to buy the rights in the first place.

'We recently ran on-air promotions to show we were broadcasting the matches on our sports channels,' she said. 'We also ran promotions in newspapers in June and July.'

She said the coverage of the rugby was not being offered as part of a special package and could be seen on the normal sporting channels.

'No extra money will be charged, and we will show every single game that is played,' she said.

The Rugby Football Union community manager Robbie McRobbie would not be drawn into the positives or negatives of i-Cable showing the sport's premier tournament.

He said i-Cable had been 'in contact' with his group. 'We will co-operate and work with whoever is showing rugby to promote the game.'