Women's rugby final will be live on TV - and more coverage could follow

·3-min read
Saracens' Alysha Corrigan breaks clear during the Women's Allianz Premier 15's match at the StoneX Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday March 27, 2021. - PA
Saracens' Alysha Corrigan breaks clear during the Women's Allianz Premier 15's match at the StoneX Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday March 27, 2021. - PA

This year’s Premier 15s final will be shown live on TV for the first time, after the Rugby Football Union confirmed BT Sport as the broadcaster for the competition’s showpiece event.

The highest profile fixture in top-flight women’s rugby, which is set to take place on May 30 at Gloucester’s Kingsholm stadium, will also see the return of up to 3,276 spectators.

Coverage of the game will be shown on BT Sport 1 and marks a welcome step for the competition after a year in which clubs have live-streamed many of their matches because of the pandemic.

The Premier 15s semi-finals, which are scheduled to take place on May 22 and will feature Harlequins Women v Wasps Ladies at Twickenham Stoop and Saracens Women v Loughborough Lightning at the StoneX Stadium respectively, will also be broadcast online through the BT Sport app. Both fixtures will also see the return of spectators.

Nicky Ponsford, the RFU’s head of women’s performance, said: “It’s been a difficult season for everyone so to get to this point is a testament to the outstanding work of the clubs and players and we are really looking forward to these games.

“We’re really pleased to be holding the final at Kingsholm after Gloucester Rugby secured the right to host in 2020 but didn’t get the chance due to the early ending of the season.

“It’s great to see BT Sport are taking the semi-finals and final. Broadcasting on BT Sport and also streaming on Premier15s.com widens the potential audience. Visibility is so important and we’re pleased BT Sport will showcase three marquee fixtures.”

Analysis: what does this mean for the Premier 15s?

News of BT Sport’s involvement in the Premier 15s will offer real optimism that the broadcaster may enter into a contract with the RFU for the 2021-22 campaign, which will be the fourth season of the competition since it was launched in 2017.

The broadcaster is already a leading provider of men's domestic and European club rugby and showing this year's Premier 15s final is a tentative first step at gauging the audience and appetite for the domestic women’s game.

Making the competition available to watch on online or via its app - as well as on TV - is not overly dissimilar from the streaming services the majority of clubs and the RFU have been forced to provide in a Covid-hit season without the admittance of fans.

The viewing figures have so far been encouraging. Exeter’s dramatic victory over Saracens last January pulled in a peak online viewership of 125,000, while Saracens’ 17-17 draw with Harlequins last March had a peak streaming viewership of 94,000. For context, the Premiership’s semi-finals of 2020 had a reported peak of 205,000 viewers.

BT Sport have a respectable track record of broadcasting women’s sport, having been one of the first broadcasters to air matches from football’s Women’s Super League for the past two years.

But with the WSL moving over to Sky and the BBC in a multi-million pound deal from next season, BT Sport will be looking to fill that void in a way not seen before - by partnering with the Premier 15s for its first TV deal.

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