Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2005
Mr Paul Vaughan, Mr Allan Munro and Mr David Moffett
Q340 Lord Peston:
To take an obvious example, each of you is involved in the international
game, which is worth money. In a sense, it is an asset, is it
not? Is that written into how you are set up? Excuse my ignorance
about these things.
Mr Moffett: It is written in our constitution
that we will foster the gameand I cannot remember the exact
wording of itright across the game, from community game
all the way up to professional game, and that we exist to promote
and foster rugby as a sport.
Q341 Lord Peston:
That is inif I may use the expressionyour "terms
Mr Moffett: Yes. Absolutely.
Q342 Lord Peston:
Does that apply to the English game as well?
Mr Vaughan: Yes.
Q343 Lord Peston:
It is on that basis that you retain the right to sell to the television
industry, is it?
Mr Moffett: Yes.
Mr Vaughan: Yes. I think it is also worth pointing
out, certainly within the English game, that we have just short
of 2,000 clubs and only 12 of them have any interest to television.
Q344 Lord Peston:
That is really what I was leading towards.
Mr Vaughan: And the national game, the international
Q345 Lord Peston:
The ones which have an interest to television nonetheless do not
get the total amount of revenue flowing.
Mr Moffett: But even within our similarity in
the way we are set up there is a huge difference. For example,
England has an ongoing problem with its clubs in the governance
of the gamewhich I know they are addressing. It is very
difficult. Scotland centrally contracts their players and that
is a big argument at the moment in rugby as a whole. I was running
New Zealand rugby as the chief executive when the game went professional
and we put in centrally the contracting of players. It is the
single reason why the All Blacks, I think, are doing so well at
the moment, because they have had much more control of where they
are going. But, to get that control, you also have to have money,
and you have to have assured sources of income. I do not know
what the premier league division of television income to other
sources of income is, but I would say pretty high. In our case,
it is round about 33 per cent, and our other main sources of income
are sponsorship and also ticket money and hospitality. These guys
do a much, much better job than we can, because there is a different
market. We do try to compete with each other but there are huge
differences between us in the underlying way in which the game
is governed and run in our countries.
Q346 Lord Armstrong of Ilminster:
In so far as there is a decreasing amount of rugby union football
on free-to-air television, I wonder whether you are assessing
the state of public opinion about this or whether you have complaints
from the public saying, "Can we not have more?"
Mr Moffett: We had some complaints when Sky
won the European Cup rights from the BBC. Our fans, once again,
are slightly different demographically. We are a game that is
fundamentally a game for everybodyyou know, it is a working
man's game in Walesand they felt that was going to be too
much money. Howeverhaving been on the RC at the timeit
is also about money, and the Sky offer was an offer that was too
good to refuse. I think, in hindsight, the BBC might have wanted
to be a little bit more aggressive because they do recognise that
it was a very valuable property to have. We do live in a competitive
world and competition is a good thing. It would be terrible if
the BBC, for example, were to pull out of that and not to provide
sport at that level.
How much were they outbid by at that time?
Mr Moffett: That is not on the public record,
but it was significant enough to make a change.
Q348 Lord Maxton:
Could the BBC have done it? Sky do six games plus on the European
Cup weekends. The BBC, unless they had a dedicated sports channelwhich
is another mattercould simply not have put those programmesexcept
in Wales maybe.
Mr Moffett: Yes, I think in Wales it would be
Q349 Lord Maxton:
Certainly in Scotland and England they could not have done it.
Mr Moffett: No. But I think you have hit on
a very good point there about a dedicated sports channel. I think
there has to be some debate about the BBC having a dedicated sports
channel at some point in time. Perhaps I could give you an example
of that. When you see rugby on Sky, you know that you are going
to get a replay fairly soon afterwards. That is pretty valuable:
the BBC pay for those rights with the RFU. After the Ireland game,
I said to Keith Jones, "Is there any chance that you could
replay the Ireland game, because all you want to do is go back
and watch it?" Normally you would not get a replay because
the BBC has so much else to do. In Wales, network comes in and
out, so programmes, like, for example, our magazine programme,
are affected by networkby them having to take the network
programmesso you never know when it is on. On Sunday it
could be on at 5.30 or 10.30 at night, and that makes for ineffective
viewing. It is like going to the rugby, you need to know: I turn
the television on at this time of the day and I would like to
be able to see that programme. But whether the BBC can afford
a dedicated channel or not, I do not know. That is for others
to say, but it would be ideal.
Q350 Lord Armstrong of Ilminster:
There are obviously national differences in this field. I wonder
whether the Rugby Football Union have any evidence about public
opinion on the declining amount of rugby available.
Mr Vaughan: Yes, is the answer. If you go back
in time, the BBC used to do Rugby Special, a weekly magazine
and highlights programme. At one stage their scheduling got a
little bit confused and it was always: spot the Rugby Special,
because they could never guarantee the slot it was going to go
inwhich is not very good from a regular viewing point of
view. If you come into the present day, they have gone away from
wanting to show highlight packages at all. The BBC in our game
in England are unable to show 22 weeks of professional club rugby
as a live sport. I do not think they can schedule that in because
it is difficult to do. I guess that is probably one of the arguments
about live cricket, because they just cannot schedule in the volume
that is there. Our solution is always: "What about highlights?
Can you not package it up on a Sunday, as you used to do?"
Their view is very much: "We do not like highlightsand
actually we are not prepared to pay for that any more either."
Now they are contracted to do eight, I think it is, this seasoneight
Rugby Special programmeswhich is terribly disappointing
from a consumer point of view. We do tend to get quite a lot of
correspondence from disgruntled people who do not have Sky/will
not have Sky and actually wish to watch it.
Q351 Lord Armstrong of Ilminster:
Is it the same for Scotland?
Mr Munro: I think it comes back to what I stated
earlier: apart from the internationals, there is no coverage whatsoever.
Sport on the radio is 100 per cent football: Rangers and Celtic.
Q352 Lord Armstrong of Ilminster:
Do you get a public reaction to that?
Mr Munro: Yes. I think it is fairly well known
that every other sport in Scotland has an outcry about the coverage,
or lack of coverage of their sport, to the coverage given to football.
Q353 Lord Maxton:
Particularly when they call it Sports Scene.
Mr Munro: Yes.
And radio is the same, is it?
Mr Munro: Radio is the same. On Saturday afternoon,
from one o'clock through to six o'clock is football.
Q355 Lord Maxton:
Except for BBC Radio Borders.
Mr Munro: The Radio Borders. I do beg your pardon,
you are right.
What about radio as far as England and Wales are concerned?
Mr Vaughan: We separate our radio rights away
from our television rights and offer those separately. We do have
an arrangement with the BBC for those rights. They tend only to
broadcast international games, but they also do the club game
on a local radio basis, and they also allow the clubs to use that
broadcast on their own websites, which generates quite a lot of
audience of people who are not anywhere near wherever that domestic
Mr Moffett: We do not have much problem at all
getting BBC to do radio rugby in Wales. Whilst I might be sounding
as though I am very much in favour of the BBC, it is a fact of
life that the two of us work very closely together where we are
a national sport, and it makes things an awful lot easier at one
Q357 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Both Mr Moffett and Mr Vaughan have said they think the BBC have
helped the market for the Six Nations. In their submission to
the Independent Panel on Charter Review, the BBC characterised
the Six Nations as a "championship once in decline"
until they came in. Do you think that is a statement that is slightly
excessive or would you agree that the Six Nations has really needed
Mr Vaughan: If I could come back to what I said
earlier, it was a five-year period that they had missing from
the Six Nations or Five Nations championship, two to three games
per year for five years only. The BBC had had the Six Nations
since the year dot (and still has it now) so there was obviously
a decline setting in before that period of 1997. But, I have to
say, they have refocused on it and they have done a fantastic
job in the last few yearsand long may it continue.
Mr Moffett: I would agree with that. I have
only been in Welsh rugby for three years. It has coincided with
that resurgence, I guess, so I would have no complaints about
what is happening. There is a debate at the moment about the structure
of the season in the northern hemisphere. There is a view that
we should have more product to get more money, whereas, with television
rights and sponsorship, outside of the Rugby World Cup the most
valuable rugby competition in the world is the Six Nations.
Q358 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
So you would wish to continue having BBC coverage for the Six
Mr Moffett: As long as it is done on a financial
basis; that is, that you are going to get the right figure for
the property. I think that is important as well. But I think we
have so far felt that we are getting the right amount of money
Q359 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
If you did not get the right figure, you could compensate-
Mr Moffett: I do not know. You see, with the
BBC it is a little bit more than just money; it is whatever else
they can give you in terms of helping you grow the game. I think
that is something that should not be understated becauseespecially
from our point of view in Walesit is such an important
issue. There would have to be a significant premium, I think,
to pay, for Wales to take the view that that particular competition
should be off the BBC and perhaps onto pay television. Obviously
there are other competitions, but that particular competition
is, I think, the jewel in the rugby club world crown.
Mr Vaughan: We are tending to ignore the other
four terrestrial broadcasters here as well. I mean, ITV do a great
job every four years, but they do not really have any match practice
in between. That is the small problemexcept for the IRB
Sevens, which they tend to put onto the digital platform. But
it is also worth making the point that, whenever our rights come
up for offer, we do tend to take them to the market and offer
them, so we do not actually do a sweetheart deal with any one