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'Crown jewels' list sets arguments raging

Gordon Farquhar | 16:15 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

"The poisoned chalice to end all poisoned chalices," as David Davies puts it.

For a man who's had his share of bitter cups to swallow during his life as executive director of the FA, that's quite an assessment.

He concedes the review of the protected list of sporting events is by definition subjective, but he says, necessary.

According to their research, ask 100 people whay they think, and 76 of them will say they're entitled to watch major sporting events on free to air TV, so someone has to decide which ones.

The protected list has existed for many years and was well overdue another tweak, given the rapidly changing landscape of broadcasting and the commercial world of sport.

What's clear from hearing David Davies talk about the review process, is that at times, it was like getting blood out of a stone.

Everyone, he says, ducked down behind their barricades. Some withheld information on commercial grounds, others he feels were a little economical with the truth over viewing figures and participation levels, to suit their own arguments.challengecup595.jpg

The Challenge Cup final, contested by Warrington and Huddersfield this year, is one of the events left off the list

To understand the controversial nature of the task, consider this example. Davies says that on an information-gathering trip to Wales, he was accosted by a senior politician, who told him that he had to save rugby for the sake of the Welsh nation, and that putting it on the protected list was the last hope.

Later that same day, he was told by a figure of similar stature at the Welsh Rugby Union that if he did put it on the list, he'd be held personally responsible for the death of the game. Not quite all singing from the same song sheet in the valleys then?

What's really valuable in this review is the intent to start public debate. It demands analysis of what's actually in the public interest: blanket exposure to inspire greater participation, or greater revenues through exclusive deals, allowing the governing bodies to directly fund mass participation schemes?

Are the two mutually exclusive? Where does the balance lie? How do you put a value on the shared experience of those must-see moments of national sporting significance?

Davies and his panel also expressed the hope that just maybe, this can be the starting point for a debate on a more utopian vision, where the pay channels and free to air broadcasters come together and co-operate to radically change their business models and genuinely put the interests of the viewing public at the heart of what they do.

Proper big picture stuff for the widescreen generation in the digital age. That'll never happen...will it?


  • Comment number 1.

    Despite the good intentions of David Davies and his advisors, I feel that he has missed the real point of the so called sporting "crown jewels". The governing bodies of the sports involved, should in this day and age of a free market, be able to sell their rights to the highest bidder. When has any auction house procluded bidders and sold anything to other than the higest bidder? Would anybody who markets a product really want to sell it for less than the market value?
    The money the governing bodies receive from the highest bidder is crucial to the development and proserity of those sports, and should the money they are able to raise as at present be cut, then there can only be adverse effects, especially at grass roots level, where the funding is needed to encoutrage children to take up sports. The idea that by having certain sports events on free-to-air television, it will suddenly encourage a mass take up by children is a very utopian ideal and one that could be argued against with all the multimedia access available these days.
    Should the mass take up happen, who will pay for all the facilities and coaches needed to maintain interest?
    Are we going to be given the assurance that the production of these events will be as it is on satellite channels, as opposed to the present free-to-air situation of the events' commencement 15 minutes after the programme comes on air, and the programmes completion 5 minutes after it finishes?
    Presently there are highlights available of these "crown jewels" on free-to-air television, so they are not unavailable for viewing.
    If the "crown jewels" list is endorsed, will we be guaranteed that all will be available in HD as they are presently on satellite channels? Because as one who has experienced viewing sport in HD I can honestly say that I for one will not be looking forward to watching it in the standard definition free-to-air channels offer.
    In the 21st century the proposal of David Davies seems a little outdated to me.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am angry that some Sports have been delisted and some listed.
    The Cricket in patricular the Ashes has been superb on Sky and with High Definition, I would be angry if I had to watch the Ashes on SD TV or even have the Cricket interupted for the 2.20 at Ascot!
    Also whos Idea was it to delist the Winter Olympics?
    The BBC and Eurosport do a cracking job and this threatens the great work they do.
    The BBC showed their true colours on Cricket but not bidding for any rights despite many being offered various packages.
    Also has anyone picked up the Rugby World Cup in 2011? It seems the BBC doesnt want to bid for it, I like it on ITV if I am honest.
    Whats wrong with the Current List?
    I think many at ITV are happy with their sports, so why are the BBC seeming to take Sports that Sky have improved greatly?

  • Comment number 3.

    To come out and say on national TV that it is only Wales that is going to be free to air regards Rugby Union because its only the Welsh that have any respect for the game. Then to remove Rugby Leauge proberly because the English are better than the Welsh at this moment in time. This is the most racist group of people ever to get their hands on a media source.
    They have just confirmed their policy of racism I though the idea was to get racism out of sport.
    If the advisers to sport are racist and in my view this group of people are thenwhat chance does any sport have.
    This has to be the end of the licence fee we are being forced to pay for racism.

  • Comment number 4.

    I for one am glad the ashes are back on free to view tv. unlike other sports watching a test match down the pub if you haven't got (can't afford) sky sports is unrealistic.
    it is however disapointing wales have their rugby union matches and england do not - a very doble standard

  • Comment number 5.

    I would pay extra on my licence fee to guarantee a return of every so called 'crown jewel' to the BBC, instead of the over-hyped, advert-interrupted coverage that we see everywhere else.
    Football (P'ship, FA Cup, Champions League, Euros, World Cup) - Rugby Union (P'ship. Heineken, 6 Nations World Cup, Golf (Open, Masters, Ryder Cup), Cricket (Test series home and away), Tennis (Grand Slams), Summer & Winter Olympics.
    Too many sports have prostituted themselves to the pay-to-view channels for too long. These (and others) events are must-see events for any sports fan and should not be denied us because of money-grabbing governing bodies.

  • Comment number 6.

    I feel that people need to have a deeper look into the impact that pay per view channels have had on the sports they have televised.

    Sky Sports have invested and made a major contribution to the development of cricket at all levels. Many local cricket clubs have coaches trained by sky money in the coach education programme. The impact at a grassroots level would be massive.

    I understand the impact that free to air sport can have on participation for example our very own Olympics has been built on this promise. However, if the infrastructure is not there what is the point! I just wonder if we would be having this debate about cricket if England would have lost 5-0! Nobody was complaining when we lost 5-0 in 06/07!

  • Comment number 7.

    Pubs in my area show soccer not football. If like me you cannot affored the BBC and SKY you listen as I am now to radio 5Live and try and work out whats going on while they spend most of the time talking about soccer or other rugby matches. When it omes to Rugby Union it is clear to me the BBC hate the Englis supporters. End the TV licence fee please.

  • Comment number 8.

    If these items stay free to air, then give them to the BBC. We might as well get something for our licence fee...
    If your only choice as a sports fan is to visit the pub to watch your sport, where does that sit with the other wing of the government that wants us all to stop drinking?
    The vast majority of Rugby League is already on Sky, so them getting the Challenge Cup as well would be great as I think the BBC does an awful job of most sports. All we get are the odd games upto the Semi Finals and then the final itself.
    As for Cricket, I would love to see home tests on free TV. channel 5 did a great job when it was on there.
    C4 have racing nailed!
    As for Football, Sky are supreme. Even with the money of Disney, ESPN are not going to touch them.
    Either let everything go to where it wants, or nothing.

  • Comment number 9.

    The argument seems to be that not having Sky will mean a decrease in money at grass roots level. This is rot, hardly any of the Sky money gets down to grass roots level, I know as I coach at an ECB "focus" club and we get naff all money from the ECB. No, the money goes to counties, who then use that money to buy Kolpak and overseas players, who then go on to play for Australia and South Africa and beat England.

    As for "smaller" counties going bust, why would that happen? It didn't in the 1980's and 1990's when there were bog all people watching them and they didn't have the money from 20-20, so why now? The answer is it won't. Players wages will decrease, that's true, but that's no bad thing.

    The argument that it will "bankrupt" the BBC's sporting budget is tosh, they have to cover the Ashes once every 4 years, so let say its £100 million quid (and that's a huge over-estimate) that's £25 million pa. The Beeb is spending over £145 million pa on its websites (according to the Economist), I'm sure a little snip here and there would fond the money.

    The only other argument is no-one has the "time" to show the matches. Well the BBC has BBC3 and 4 which do not broadcast during the day (before 7pm I believe) , so that's perfect isn't it? Everyone will have switched digital by 2013 so there's no problem there.

  • Comment number 10.

    I must say I'm highly amused to hear some folk parroting off the media companies' line about their money being absolutely necessary to the wellbeing of a whole raft of sports. Indeed, without this money it appears no-one would even participate in sport, the unused energy would cause widespread rioting of the leisure-deprived masses, and society would grind to a halt.

    Big Media cash is NOT necessary to the wellbeing of sport in this country, as even a rudimentary analysis reveals.

    As if - in the days before cable & satellite TV - grassroots sport was in a terrible state, there was a lack of interest and kids didn't play games. On the contrary, the rise of cable and satellite has coincided with a substantial DROP in the number of kids participating in sport. Cable and satellite have been a bad thing for grassroots sport: but a good thing, to be sure, for those quangos "promoting" grassroots sport, who now have more money than ever to broaden their powerbase, and secure cushy jobs for themselves and their mates as the selfappointed guardians of our leisure future.

    The best way to promote sport to kids is to make the big exciting events freely available for all to view on normal TV. The excitement generated far outweighs the effect of the small trickle of Sky money that actually gets down to grassroots level. Nearly all the serious money is sopped up by the sports clubs to pay ever-more-obscene wages to imported foreign stars, who then proceed to oust our own young players from the teams - and the rest pays the wages of the placeholders and admin-wranglers in the sports bodies themselves.

    And if there is an argument over which events should be on the reserved list? Double the size of the list. Simple.

  • Comment number 11.

    Pubs in my area show soccer not football. If like me you cannot affored the BBC and SKY you listen as I am now to radio 5Live and try and work out whats going on while they spend most of the time talking about soccer or other rugby matches. When it omes to Rugby Union it is clear to me the BBC hate the Englis supporters. End the TV licence fee please.


    c'mon mate....think for a second. No licsence fee no radio 5 live??? No??

    I agree some sports need to be protected but to be honest a balance needs to be struck. I am mostly in favour of a league rights to be sold to sky but internationals to be on terrestrial television, with football and rugby, and cricket.

    I think, although I confess im no cricket fan, that one test series every 4 years on normal tv is fine. If thats going to kill the game then I think it probably deserves to die then

  • Comment number 12.

    "The only other argument is no-one has the "time" to show the matches. Well the BBC has BBC3 and 4 which do not broadcast during the day (before 7pm I believe) , so that's perfect isn't it? Everyone will have switched digital by 2013 so there's no problem there."

    There is one major problem with this actually. CBBC & CBeebies use the BBC3 & BBC4 spectrum during the day (before 7pm) so there is no spare spectrum for use and the hours of BBC3 & BBC4 cannot be extended.

  • Comment number 13.

    By the way the 2013 Ashes will definitely be exclusive to Sky Sports, they have already signed the contract and it's safe. The first Ashes series covered by this rule (if agreed) will be 2017.

    Of course Mr Cameron could decide to reverse it, if he is elected PM next year.

  • Comment number 14.

    c'mon mate....think for a second. No licsence fee no radio 5 live??? No??
    Radio 5live is something I can live without. radio 5live extra yes ok but 5 live oh dreadful.
    I have complained to the BBC over coverage of the England v Austrailia match. It was dreadfull. Most of the time was spent talking about soccer The straw that broak the cammels back for me was all the disscussion about the Spurs match including missing the end of the England v Austrailia match. The spurs match was fully covered uninterupted on radio 5live extra. You would have thought that not showing England rugby union live on the TV the ( Ireland Scotland Wales all live)the BBC could at least give English rugby Unions fans full uninterupted coverage on the radio.
    I complained to the BBC. even giving the point that it would be a good thing to have put the rugby on radio 5live extra and the footbal on radio 5live. Do the BBC care a dot about English Rugby Union supporters answer no. WE had the same rubbish this week and they still could not stay with the match in the last minute despite the fact Argentina were giving their all to score a try and spoil the party for England and claim a draw.
    If radio 5live has a problem it should be called radio 5 almost live.
    Will rado 5live do better next week no I do not think the program producers have such ability. England to beat New Zeland is far more of a prospect.
    Glad I have got this of my chest I can now get ready to sit back and enjoy the Ireland game on the TV Good luck Ireland you can do this England played below themselves (I like that must tell the wife it was not C..P they just played below themselves) so you can win this.

  • Comment number 15.

    To blame Sky etc for the down-turn in kids playing sports is a tad harsh. Cable TV in this country co-incided with the rise of the Internet, mass availability of the multitude of game stations, etc.
    This & the lack of participation by teachers & parents in schools & clubs has had far more of an effect on the lack of kids playing any sports at all. Too many secondary schools don't have rugby, football or cricket teams. Can't have them being competitive as some of them might feel sad if they don't win.... I used to coach cricket at the local club & too many parents seemed to think it was nothing more than a cheap creche, yes some helped & were keen to drive to away matches but too many used the "oh if only you asked last week" excuse - forgetting that we had...

    As far as the viewing figures on Sky for the recent 2009 Ashes series compared favourably with the 2001 series - which holds far more relevance to comparing it to one of the best series ever. Bit like comparing Chris Schofield to Shane Warne!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Firstly not all Welsh people are from or live in the valleys, and certainly not all the Welsh can sing well. Secondly there shouldn't be such a thing as a protected list. It's up to each sport as to whether they want to sell their TV rights to pay-TV or not. Also every franchise or nation-state should be allowed to sell the rights for each individual match. So for example the RFU may decide to sell the match against the All Blacks to ESPN, Australia to Sky and Argentina to the BBC.

  • Comment number 17.

    The ECB's response to the Davies review is quite frankly shameful. They have effectively ruled out, in their eyes, any return of live cricket to terrestrial tv, always seeking out the very highest bidder regardless of other issues. This is contrary to what they have said in the run up to previous contract negotiations.

    Where is the evidence for the figures they quote? The amount of money they claim to lose over this sounds like pie in the sky, a desperate attempt to scare the Secretary of State out of implementing the report.

    And if the ECB are so dependent on Sky's money, is the real question not, why are they? ALL governing bodies strike a balance (even the FA) between broadcasting investment, exposure on terrestrial television, sponsorship revenue etc, EXCEPT the ECB which is (apparently) entirely relying on Sky's money for its very survival. If that really is the case, should the ECB not be looking at themselves and wondering where the business plan went wrong?

    The ECB has only spent a tiny fraction of its money on grassroots cricket, as most local cricketers and coaches know only too well. The vast majority goes on propping up the counties who, conveniently enough, are the same bodies who elect the person to run English cricket from top to bottom.

  • Comment number 18.

    In response to so many references to Channel Four leaving their cricket coverage for racing it is worth remembering that the vast majority of the time they carried uninterrupted coverage (and advert free), free of charge, on FilmFour - a channel available on freeview, satellite, and cable. All viewers had to do was re-tune channel, hopefully not too much of a burden. In the digital age, FTA channels could quite easily do the same again.

    It is a myth that coverage came to a halt.

    Their coverage was also Bafta award-winning, unbiased, and enthused hundreds to think again about cricket.

    There is also a challenge to Sky in the report to broadcast some cricket and other sports FTA rather than take the events away from them.

  • Comment number 19.

    It seems to me that the question still to be posed and answered in detail in public, for each sport where this has major relevance, is this:

    'Does the increased revenue generated by attracting commercial broadcasters actually transfer itself in reality to effective support of the grass roots, or is it being siphoned away or frittered away in some other manner?'

    This question is critical, since:
    i. If the aim is to increase grass roots participation, then unequivocal evidence that this is happening must be provided as a counterbalance to loss of free-to-air coverage.
    ii. Sports such as tennis, which already generate £30m a year from Wimbledon, seem incapable of using such funds productively to generate any world-class talent through their junior programmes.
    iii. Cricket appears to use the money to fund the counties rather than junior cricket.

    The trade-off in my view must be this: strong regulation of the use of commercial broadcasting revenue to ensure that correct structures, funded programmes and sustainable infrastructure are available for years to come.

    But if what you end up with is grass roots neglect and lack of free-to-air viewing, then you have turned sport into the pastime of a minority, not the majority.

    I think that would be shameful and something that politicians and the sports bodies, not the broadcasters, are responsible for.

  • Comment number 20.

    The ECB will hardly notice the loss of money.
    Its only the Ashes they have to give free to air, and even then only the home series.
    Vaughn really is in no position to open up on this as he knows very little about the ECB's business.

  • Comment number 21.

    One thing that has happened is that grass roots sport has suffered greatly over the last 20 or so years from massively reduced government funding or support (selling off of school playing fields, etc), so it has come down to the sports themselves to find the money to invest in the lowest level of these sports. Is it any wonder then that these sports need to go out to the highest bidder?
    To those complaining that the money doesn't go down to the lowest level, this is the fault of the sporting bodies, and how they distribute the money, not which broadcaster. One thing you can be sure of is that if there is less money as a result of being forced to be on terrestrial, then even less money will make it's way to the grass roots.

  • Comment number 22.

    I love Sky Sports presentation of Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup rugby. As occurred with the English Premiership (football), they hugely raised standards of coverage. On top of that, they provide huge investment for the respective sports. They are the reason our two major sports are recognised the world over as among the very best. Not only that, but it is the result of a fair auction in a fair and open market.

    What a retrograde step it is then to offer the RBS 6-Nations to the BBC. I would like to know a little more of the details of this. For instance, how much have the BBC paid? Why don't they share rights to show coverage with independant broadcasters (including Sky themsleves)?

    And worst of all, we have to put up with Eddie Butler fawning over his beloved Welsh rugby team, supported by the (warts 'n all) promoter of his own biography - Brian Moore. Listening to them chirp their way through an Eng vs Wal game is like having teeth extracted!


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