TV sports report sparks backlash

 

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The summer Olympics are one of a number of events which are on the proposed free-to-air events list

 

By Suhayl Afzal and Myles Edwards

Proposed changes to the list of free-to-air sporting events have triggered widespread criticism.

Sporting associations, journalists and the public have reacted angrily to the recommendations put to the department of culture, media and sport by an independent panel.

The report suggests that all of the home nations’ football qualifiers be made available on free-to-air TV, along with England’s home Ashes Tests making a return to the list. 

The Open golf championship and Wimbledon tennis championship will also be retained. 

Rugby league’s Challenge Cup final and horseracing’s Epson Derby will be removed from the so-called ‘crown-jewels list’, if the recommendations are adopted by culture secretary Ben Bradshaw.

The controversial recommendations have led to Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith voicing his concerns over their potential damaging consequences on the game.

He said: “It seems like a great idea to say your games should be free-to-air.  It sounds like you’re really considering the public, but it would have serious financial repercussions in terms of income that we bring in to the SFA.

“We would have no problem at all provided the free-to-air broadcaster paid the same money as a satellite broadcaster.”

He added: “Maybe the government would make up the shortfall in terms of the deal that we get, in order that we can continue to offer the services we offer to football at grassroots, youth and a professional level.”

England Cricket Board chief Giles Clarke also warned that it could lead to “a decade of decay” for his sport and that the report would have “a disastrous effect on grassroots funding”.

The Independent Advisory Panel was composed of several well known names from the worlds of sports and media, including Colin Jackson, Angus Fraser, Dougie Donnelly and Eamonn Holmes.

The report made no mention of the possibility of terrestrial TV stations bidding the same price as the likes of Sky have done in the past. 

Smith and Clarke are not the only ones who are concerned that this could drastically reduce the funding towards grassroots levels of sport.

Andrew Moir, who has worked as a journalist for Sky and ESPN, said that the recommendations could have both positive and negative consequences.

He said: “It is good from a consumer point of you that all these events will potentially be aired free of charge.  They will be on offer to a far wider audience.

“However, if terrestrial TV stations are able to bid for the events at a smaller price than Sky would have had to, then it could be very damaging to the future of sports. I see no reason why the likes of BBC or ITV couldn’t bid a high amount for the events.”

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has 12 weeks to consider the panel’s findings.

 

FULL LIST OF PROPOSED FREE-TO-AIR EVENTS

Summer Olympic Games
Cricket’s home Ashes Test matches
Wimbledon Championship
Open golf championship
Football: FIFA World Cup finals, UEFA European Championship finals, FA Cup final (England, Wales and Northern Ireland only), Scottish FA Cup (Scotland), home and away football qualifiers for World Cup and European Championship for their specific UK nations
Rugby Union: Rugby World Cup (full tournament), Wales matches in Six Nations (in Wales only)
The Grand National 

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