Shute Shield broadcast secured on 7Two

The Shute Shield will return to free-to-air television in time for season kick-off next week after the Sydney Rugby Union confirmed it had secured most of the funding required to finance a weekly live broadcast on 7Two.

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SRU president David Begg also revealed the Shute Shield game of the week would be broadcast live on Sky Sports in rugby-mad New Zealand in the slot before the Saturday night Super Rugby match, and that plans to take a game to Orange would go ahead.

“We can confirm we are on 7Two for the year,” Begg said.

“We’ve had lots of encouraging meetings with [production company Club Rugby TV] and we think the production and coverage this year is going to be absolutely fantastic, including a live game in Orange and the fact the game is going live into New Zealand via Sky between 5pm and 7pm.”

The SRU is in the third year of a five-year deal with Club Rugby TV, which requires it to spend $250,000 on advertising with Channel Seven in exchange for the live broadcast of one game per round on 7Two. Last year the Australian Rugby Union came up with the money at the last minute, but in his first few months as SRU president Begg was left with little time to secure support and sponsorship after the ARU and NSW Rugby Union signalled they were not prepared to fund the deal.

It is understood sponsorship discussions with at least one corporate partner is still in the final stages of negotiations but the SRU has secured enough funding to meet “trigger points” in the contract with Club Rugby TV. The funding breakthrough and deal with Sky Sports mean the competition can continue to build on momentum from a history-making season last year, in which outsiders Northern Suburbs won the Shute Shield and a crowd of more than 10,000 flocked to North Sydney Oval to watch the grand final.

This season Eastern Suburbs, whose president John Murray is part-owner of Club Rugby TV, is taking its round seven clash with Gordon to the bush, playing in Orange in the NSW central west. The fixture will be the televised match of the round and feature a curtain raiser between Orange City and the Orange Emus on May 13.

Also on Thursday, the ARU announced it would trial a new concussion “blue card” in the Newcastle and ACT club competitions in effort to enhance player safety at the game’s grassroots.

On-field referees will have the authority to issue a blue card to any player they believe is showing signs of concussion during a match. The player must then observe mandatory return-to-play protocols including a 12-day stand-down period from training and playing for adults, and a 19-day stand-down period for children under the age of 18.