Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle remains confident Fox Sports hasn’t walked away and expects the broadcaster to bid for TV rights next month.
Castle is taking rugby’s broadcast rights to market for the first time since rugby went professional in 1996, in a move that will have a huge impact on the game’s future.
It was reported Fox Sports had ended their 25-year relationship with the code after RA rejected their offer for the rights package from 2021 to 2025.
But Castle is confident the pay-TV company will come back to the table.
“We went through a negotiating process with them (Fox Sports) through their exclusive negotiating period,” Castle said.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t get to a place we were both comfortable with. So now we’re in tender and we would expect that as a market process they would step into that process.”
RA chairman Cameron Clyne and vice-chairman Brett Robinson will stand down from the board on March 30 and former Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O’Neill believes the new board shouldn’t inherit their TV deal.
Castle confirmed Clyne would continue to work on broadcast negotiations before he departs and said she didn’t think O’Neill’s comments were fair.
“This is a decision that is about generating the most financially beneficial outcome we can for the game,” Castle told reporters at the Super W launch.
“At the end of the day there will be two members departing. There is still a core of the board that is still there.”
The negotiations haven’t been helped by three of Australia’s four Super Rugby teams going winless over the first two rounds, while crowds and TV ratings are down.
“We know we’ve got some work to do to make sure we deliver good outcomes to those fans and that they need to come back to the game and we’re working,” Castle said.
“It’s not going to happen overnight but it’s going to happen by us engaging with them.”
Common feedback from casual fans is they didn’t know the Super Rugby season had started and that’s why Castle said the broadcast deal was “so critical”.
“There will be a portion of that (broadcast money) held aside to make sure we can market the game as hard as we can,” Castle said.
“This is a very competitive market. There is more professional sports teams in Australia per head of population than any other country in the world.”