A three-year deal with ERC gives Sky Sports live coverage of the Heineken Cup and Parker Pen Challenge Cup in seasons 2003/04, 2004/05 and 2005/06.
Â· This season's Heineken Cup kicks-off in December and Sky Sports will cover at least three live ties from each weekend of the tournament, plus both semi-finals and the final. All other games will be covered in special highlights programmes.
Â· From the Parker Pen Challenge Cup the final and two semi-finals will be live and exclusive on Sky Sports.
Welcoming the deal, Derek McGrath, Chief Executive of ERC, said: "This is great news for the 56 clubs across eight countries who compete in our two main tournaments and for rugby fans throughout the UK.
"Sky Sports has a massive reputation for its coverage of and commitment to Rugby Union and ERC is delighted to welcome them on board.
"The number of live games they will broadcast in the Heineken Cup at both the Pool stage and in the knock-out stage will ensure the tournament retains its position as the number one club competition in the world game.
"Coming on top of the news announced before last season's Heineken Cup final in Dublin that Heineken will remain our title sponsors for the next two years, this deal proves that Europe's pre-eminent club competition retains its allure and will continue to grow.
"Sky Sports will be with us for at least three years and their high standards of match presentation and promotion will add something new and exciting to our product."
Jean-Pierre Lux, Chairman of ERC, added: "This is an exciting year for rugby with the World Cup taking place in Australia and many of the game's biggest names will be returning to Europe at the end of November to take part in the Heineken Cup.
"Sky Sports has demonstrated to us their great enthusiasm for our tournaments and this new broadcast partnership is set to provide some wonderful entertainment for rugby fans throughout the UK and Ireland."
Vic Wakeling, Managing Director of Sky Sports, said: "The Heineken Cup will be even bigger this season, coming so quickly after what should be a successful World Cup. It is the Champions League of Rugby Union, and we shall treat it as such in both coverage and promotion. Our commitment is for at least three live matches per weekend, but when we look at the fixtures for that first weekend, we find ourselves very tempted to do more."
Heineken Cup ties will be played on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with coverage starting on the weekend of 5-7 December, 2003. Sky Sports expects to announce televised fixtures for the first weekend early next month. The finals of the Heineken Cup and Parker Pen Challenge Cup will be played on the weekend of 22-23 May, 2004.
Added to the existing deals for live Rugby Union, Sky Sports will now cover over 100 live matches - from international, European and domestic levels - over the next 12 months. Sky Sports covers live rugby every month of the year with the line-up including: England's Autumn internationals, Zurich Premiership, Tri-Nations, Super 12s, Home Nations tours to the southern hemisphere, and the next Lions tour in 2005.