Ulster Rugby returns to BBC Northern Ireland this season with live coverage of six of the province’s home matches in the inaugural United Rugby Championship.
The new three-year broadcast deal will also see the introduction of a new weekly TV programme – ‘The Ulster Rugby Show’ – featuring a line-up of special guests and pundits taking a light-hearted look at the week’s action from the province and across the new tournament.
Every Ulster Rugby match in the United Rugby Championship will be available on BBC iPlayer 24 hours after each round with clips of the best action and tries on the BBC Sport NI website and social media channels.
The first live BBC Northern Ireland game televised will see Ulster take on Benetton at Kingspan Stadium on Friday 8 October followed a week later by Ulster’s first game in the new league against South African opposition, the Sigma Lions, on Friday 15 October.
Kicking off on 24 September, the United Rugby Championship will bring 12 teams from the PRO14 and South Africa’s top four franchises together to form a new 16 team league.
As well as Ulster, Leinster, Connacht and Munster, the competition also includes Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls – who join former PRO14 clubs Cardiff, Ospreys, Scarlets, Dragons, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Benetton and Zebre.
BBC Northern Ireland’s other live matches in the 2021/22 United Rugby Championship will feature Ulster’s provincial clash against Connacht on Boxing Day and the province’s matches in the new year against Cardiff, Munster and the Cell C Sharks.
Peter Johnston, Director BBC Northern Ireland, said:
“It is great news to have live rugby back on BBC television. We know how popular this will be with our audiences and I hope fans enjoy the range of coverage we have lined up during the season. We have always had a strong partnership with Ulster Rugby and this will be a new era for them with an exciting new competition – the United Rugby Championship. This deal is a fitting addition to our wide-ranging sports portfolio. We’ve already had a big summer of sport and now look forward to an action-packed autumn.”
Jonny Petrie, Ulster Rugby CEO said:
“As we look forward to the United Rugby Championship getting started, we welcome the news that BBC NI will once again be broadcasting from Kingspan Stadium on match night: once again becoming part of the fabric of rugby in Northern Ireland. Not only will this allow more supporters to be part of the action and atmosphere under the Friday night lights but, through the likes of The Ulster Rugby Show, will offer our fans opportunities throughout the week to enjoy the latest action from the new season. I’m delighted to have been able to work with URC and BBC NI to get to this point, and I am looking forward to us working in strong partnership over the coming seasons to showcase the best of our sport.”
Neil Brittain, BBC Sport NI Executive Editor, said:
“We know how popular Ulster Rugby is with audiences in Northern Ireland and it has been a priority of ours to get live matches back on the BBC. I am pleased therefore that we have been able to work with URC on this broadcast partnership which will see coverage of the province across TV, radio, BBC iPlayer and online and we look forward to the start of the exciting new United Rugby Championship.”
Martin Anayi, United Rugby Championship CEO, said: “Ulster Rugby boasts a tremendous appeal in Northern Ireland and as an historic partner of the league for so long, we are very pleased to have BBC NI back among our broadcasters.
“BBC NI have a history of capturing the moments that matter when it comes to sport in Northern Ireland which is not only a positive for Ulster, but for rugby fans in general as they have expressed huge enthusiasm for the URC and the arrival of the big four from South Africa.”
Note to Editor:
BBC Northern Ireland will show six live Ulster home games per season. This will consist of two derby matches, two matches versus South African teams, one versus a Welsh region and one versus an Italian team. Should Ulster reach the URC Grand Final during the agreement, BBC Northern Ireland will broadcast the game.