EPCR Moving to F**Rugby

American rugby fans will have one fewer viewing option this fall.

European Professional Club Rugby, which organizes the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions, is shifting from the NBC networks to F**Rugby for the new season. Premiership Rugby will remain with NBC, while F** has also acquired American distribution for both the URC and Top14.

While the initial cries of ‘grow the game’ are well meaning, this particular news isn’t jarring. Growing viewership isn’t the only way to expand rugby’s reach. The move will provide the first distribution of Top14 games in the USA. The URC’s self-owned broadcasting tool surely wasn’t worth the cost in the USA, so taking streaming payments can free up capital and resources. (URC was advertising the season for $99 on their platform prior to the news.)

As for the continental competitions, this could have simply been a money move. America isn’t the primary intended audience, and we have no idea what other offers existed. (In a similar vein, we don’t know what F** is paying either.) The competitions are expanding to include the four South African sides of the URC, and the professional club game hasn’t been profitable the last few years. The rational is simple: more hands are going into the pot at a time when there already isn’t enough in there. EPCR decided to get a bigger pot.

None of this is too say that it will be a popular move. But with the recent issues at Worcester Warriors reminding us that top level clubs can fold, the financial support that should trickle to the clubs is worth it. It’s a lot easier to get people to watch club rugby when club rugby, you know, exists.

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