10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The deal will mean that no fewer than 25 live Celtic League and Celtic Cup matches will be produced in Ireland, but Setanta Sports will also broadcast games involving Irish teams playing in Scotland and Wales.
It was also announced today that Setanta Sports will be available to all ntl TV customers as part of their basic package which will result in over 340,000 households having access to the Celtic League games.
"This is a major boost for Celtic Rugby and underlines the advances our tournaments are making. The biggest attraction is the increase in the number of live games which will increase our exposure and subsequent value for our commercial partners. There is also provision being made for a highlights package to be shown on Irish terrestrial TV," said Celtic Rugby Tournament Director Keith Grainger.
"The move to a full-blown, home and away Celtic League format was a huge success last season and resulted in a significant increase in viewers and those attending. Next season we are confident of growing our audiences not only at the grounds, but also on TV.
"This new broadcast deal, in conjunction with the existing and extremely strong agreement with BBC Wales and S4C in Wales, will mean that more sports fans will get the chance to see more Celtic Rugby action."
The 2004/2005 Celtic League season will kick off on the first weekend of September, with all 11 professional teams from the three Celtic Nations playing against each other both home and away with the Llanelli Scarlets the defending champions.
Once the league campaign is over, the top eight clubs will play in a Celtic Cup knock-out tournament which will culminate in a major final in May.
Niall Cogley, Chief Executive, Setanta Sports said; "We are delighted to have secured the rights to the Celtic League and we will use them to broadcast an increased number of games to Irish viewers on our newly launched channel- Setanta Sports."