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Thursday, June 25, 1998 Published at 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK


'Crown jewels': cricket out, rugby and football in

Clean bowled? BBC has spent decades at the crease

Media correspondent Nick Higham: "The Government's decision may reflect the fact that football's more popular than cricket."
The government has confirmed that live coverage of cricket Test matches played in England is to be removed from the list of sporting events reserved for terrestrial TV - but that rugby and soccer tournaments will take its place.

The European Football Championship Finals, the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final and the Rugby Union World Cup Final are to be placed on a revised list of "crown jewels" - those events considered too important to be restricted to people with satellite or cable TV.

[ image: Rugby Union: becomes a
Rugby Union: becomes a "crown jewel"
Domestic Test cricket, however, is to be removed from this group, now known as the "A list", and placed on a new "B list".

This category will allow subscription broadcasters to bid for exclusive coverage rights provided there are satisfactory arrangements for secondary coverage by a terrestrial broadcaster.

The BBC has covered Test matches in England for the last 50 years but now looks likely to lose out to satellite television.

New set of guarantees

Making the announcement in a Commons written reply, Culture Secretary Chris Smith said he was determined to ensure that terrestrial broadcasters did get good quality access to secondary coverage even if subscription broadcasters, such as satellite and cable stations, won the primary rights.

[ image: Glenn Hoddle: something to smile about]
Glenn Hoddle: something to smile about
"I have asked the Independent Television Commission to consider setting a minimum acceptable standard for such secondary coverage, to include some combination of delayed full coverage, highlights and live radio commentary," he said.

In addition to the above football and rugby finals which he wants to place on the "A list", Mr Smith said he believed that crucial ties in the football World Cup and European Championship qualifying competitions should also qualify for the highest status.

He said he therefore intended to seek Europe-wide arrangements for protecting free-to-air live broadcasts of crucial matches in these competitions.

The extended protection for football was welcomed by England coach Glenn Hoddle, who expressed his approval for the package.

"I'm delighted when the biggest possible audience sees England's vital matches. Any plans that ensure that happens in the future I welcome," said Mr Hoddle. "I know it is what the fans want. So do I," he added.

From A to B

[ image: Radio: Only free coverage for millions of fans]
Radio: Only free coverage for millions of fans
The division of the "crown jewels" into two categories is in line with the recommendations made in March by the Gordon Committee report on the future of televised sport.

The actual split announced by Mr Smith differs, however, from that put forward by the committee, which included broadcaster and journalist Michael Parkinson and former world champion athlete Steve Cram.

The revised lists are as follows:

[ image:  ]
The "A list":

  • Olympic Games
  • FIFA World Cup Finals
  • FA Cup Final
  • Scottish FA Cup Final (in Scotland)
  • Grand National
  • The Derby
  • Wimbledon Tennis Tournament Finals
  • European Championship Football Finals Tournament
  • Rugby League Challenge Cup Final
  • Rugby Union World Cup Final

    The "B list":

  • Cricket Tests in England
  • Non-finals play at Wimbledon
  • Rugby Union World Cup Finals tournament apart from the final itself
  • Five Nations Rugby Union matches involving the home countries
  • Commonwealth Games
  • World Athletics Championships
  • Cricket World Cup - the final, semi-finals and matches involving the home countries
  • The Ryder Cup
  • The Open Golf Championship.

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