BBC ALBA has strengthened its commitment to women’s sport by agreeing a deal with Scottish Rugby to screen the national team’s home games in the Six Nations Championship and against Canada as well as the Sarah Beaney Cup final. The contract is so far just for this season, but the TV channel hopes that it will develop into a longer-term relationship with the governing body. Alba already televises the national football team’s matches and also recently broadcast a women’s shinty game for the first time.
The friendly against Canada at Scotstoun on 27 November will be the first match shown, and will be followed by the Six Nations games against Italy and Ireland in February and Wales in March before the Sarah Beaney Cup. Away games may also be shown if agreement is reached with the host broadcasters.
The presentation team will include Iona Whyte, Megan MacLellan, Hugh Dan MacLennan, Derek Mackay and Alex O’Henley. Whyte will present live for the first time at the Canada game.
“I do see this as a long-term partnership,” said Iseabail Mactaggart, the director of strategy and partnership at MG Alba. “Our hope and expectation is that we’ll be able to work together with Scottish Rugby beyond this one-year deal.
“We had been doing women’s sport sporadically up until now, but with this deal and the football one we’re able to take a more strategic approach to it, and we do expect audiences to grow. I think we’ve demonstrated over the last 10 years with our coverage of the PRO14 how you can work together to help grow a sport, both in terms of the TV audience but also spectators. And also it’s about participation: we see this as an opportunity to showcase these athletes at the top of their game, and that encourages participation.”
Scotland internationals Lisa Thomson and Louise McMillan who attended the media launch of the agreement at Scotstoun, are convinced that televising their matches will help attract a new audience to the sport, as well as hopefully increasing participation. “For the awareness of the game and the growth of the game, it’s so important to have these games televised,” McMillan said. “For people who maybe don’t know women’s rugby, it’s a great opportunity.”
Alba is available on Freeview channel seven in Scotland only, and on Sky, Virgin and Freesat. The Canada game will also be available through the BBC iPlayer, and for viewers in Canada via www.bbc.co.uk/alba.