ERC, organisers of the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup, and Sky Sports have extended their broadcast partnership for television coverage of both European club rugby tournaments until the end of the 2013/14 season.
The new four-year extension, which will bring the partnership with ERC to 10 years, will see Sky Sports continue to offer exclusive live broadcast coverage of Europe's premier club rugby tournament the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup matches in the UK and Ireland.
Sky Sports will continue to broadcast up to eight live Heineken Cup Pool matches each European weekend plus games from every round of the European Challenge Cup.
Commenting on the Sky Sports extension Derek McGrath, ERC Chief Executive, said: "Over the past six seasons Sky Sports have helped to bring the Heineken Cup to the next level in the UK and Ireland, through their significant investment in the game and their innovative, comprehensive and world class coverage of the tournament.
"The Heineken Cup is now firmly established as Europe's premier club rugby tournament and we look forward to continuing that journey with Sky Sports as the tournament enhances its global appeal.
"The new agreement also offers an important boost to the European Challenge Cup tournament guaranteeing an invaluable promotional platform for the tournament and participating clubs."
Vic Wakeling, Managing Director of Sky Sports said:" "The Heineken Cup is a huge success; a great example of the growing strength of club rugby in the northern hemisphere and it plays to packed houses everywhere. We are delighted to continue our exclusive coverage of both European tournaments."
Last weekend new Heineken Cup tournament highs were recorded with over 200,000 fans attending the 12 Round 3 matches, including 76,569 at Stade de France for Stade Français Paris' match against Harlequins.
The 36 matches so far this season have seen almost half a million fans go through the turnstiles with over one million supporters set to be at a season's matches for the first time..
Sky Sports have made a major contribution to the development and increased profile of both European tournaments and last season broadcast 37 live Heineken Cup games and 12 European Challenge Cup matches offering fans a wealth of European action to choose from each weekend.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.