The Rugby Football League is to stream England’s international fixture against Samoa in New South Wales on May 6 via its website rugby-league.com and charge fans to watch it after turning down offers from TV broadcasters to show the fixture.
Fans will be able to watch the match online for £3.49, providing they sign up via the RFL website up to 24 hours before kick-off, when the price goes up to £4.99.
The game will also be available for free to any fan who buys a ticket for the Magic Weekend via rugby-league.com from April 11 until 10:30am on May 5, with fans needing to enter the promo code ENGVSAMOA at the time of purchase in order to get free access to the stream.
The BBC confirmed it had spoken to the RFL about broadcasting the match on free-to-air television but the RFL rejected the offer, a controversial decision that has already provoked criticism from fans.
RFL chief commercial officer Roger Draper said: “The way in which people watch sport is changing and we know that there is significant demand to watch Rugby League and particularly our national team.
“We believe that at just £3.49, the Test Match between England and Samoa offers tremendous value for what promises to be an incredible contest between two top sides.
“This one-off game also gives us the perfect opportunity to test and learn more about the market for live streaming as we begin to prepare for the future landscape of sports broadcasting and how Rugby League can best take advantage of it.”
It is thought the BBC were keen to broadcast the match, England’s only warm-up before the 2017 World Cup, but the RFL was not sufficiently impressed by their offer which Press Association Sport understands was between £5,000 and £10,000.
Draper added: “We value all our broadcast partnerships tremendously and terrestrial coverage for our national team is very important to us, which is why we have secured deals that will show all of England’s games in both the 2017 and 2021 Rugby League World Cups live on terrestrial TV, but habits are changing and we are excited to explore this opportunity.
“For this game, we entered into conversation with a number of organisations interested in buying the broadcast rights however the terms that were offered were not considered acceptable for Rugby League.
“We value the rights for our national team significantly higher than any of the offers and therefore felt that the right decision for this Test Match was to take it into our own hands and stream the game.”
England are likely to select a strong side for the encounter which could include the likes of Sam Burgess, James Graham and Kallum Watkins, in what will be head coach Wayne Bennett’s last chance to see his team in competitive action before they take on Australia in the opening game of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
The competition runs from October 26 to December 2, with all England games and the final to broadcast on BBC TV and every match available live on Premier Sports.
Samoa, who are ranked fifth in the world, lost narrowly to England in the only previous meeting between the two nations in the 2014 Four Nations tournament and will pose a stern test for Bennett’s England side.
The game – England’s last before this year’s World Cup – will be the headline event of a Pacific triple-header at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Fans who want to watch live streaming of the game can register at live.rugby-league.com with a £3.49 early bird offer available until 24 hours before kick-off.
SATURDAY 6th MAY
England v Samoa