Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis is to deliver the inaugural 'Game Changer' lecture which closes the opening day of Rugby Expo 2016 at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry on Thursday 3 November.
Francis, who joined Sky Sports in 1999 and was appointed MD in 2009, is a highly experienced and respected sports media professional whose unique perspective on the relationship between sports and broadcasters has been forged on the front line of delivering live coverage as well as in the boardroom.
At Sky Sports, Francis oversees a broad portfolio of rugby union content that includes the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017, England and Ireland home Tests, all SANZAR rugby until the end of 2020, the HSBC Sevens World Series, the World Rugby U20 Championships, as well as matches from the European Rugby Champions and Challenge Cups, the Guinness Pro 12 and the French Top 14. Sky Sports also shows a wide variety of women's rugby that has included the last two World Cups – including the 2014 edition won by England – and the 2015-16 Women's Premiership final.
Sky Sports also has exclusive live rights for rugby league's elite competition, the First Utility Super League, culminating in the showpiece Grand Final at Old Trafford, as well as the annual World Club Series, which pits the best of the Super League against the top clubs from the NRL in Australasia.
In the 'Game Changer' lecture Francis will focus on the role of broadcasters in the development of rugby in a fast-changing, multi-platform media universe. In addition to reflecting on how TV has impacted on the both Rugby Union and Rugby League, he will turn his attention to future trends and developments, flagging-up opportunities and challenges to be faced by governing bodies, clubs and the media companies themselves.
The 'Game Changer' Lecture has been introduced to the Rugby Expo programme to provide an annual platform for challenging and thought provoking input into the subjects critical to the continued development of a sport whose global footprint and commercial value has grown significantly in the professional era.
Rugby Expo is the largest B2B conference and exhibition focusing on professional and grassroots club rugby and the launch of the 'Game Changer' lecture marks Rugby Expo's move to The Ricoh Arena after five years at Twickenham. The venue is home to Premiership Rugby side Wasps, whose move to their new home has transformed approaches to rugby's traditional business model and helped reignite interest in the sport in Warwickshire and the surrounding area.
Incoming World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, one of the towering figures of English rugby and captain of the 1980 Gland Slam winning team, will deliver a wide-ranging opening keynote outlining his vision for the future of the sport.
Elsewhere on the Day 1 conference programme, Wasps CEO David Armstrong will be among the senior European club executives to take part in the Club Council, an interactive panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities faced by clubs operating in a highly competitive commercial and media environment. The session will address the relationship between clubs and international unions and the role of the leagues in promoting and sustaining the sport.
Speakers from Microsoft and digital sponsorship tracking specialists SnapRapid are the first to confirm their participation in a session, which focuses on the biggest issue in sports business, the digital commercialisation of sports, and how this can be applied to professional rugby.
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