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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Government 'should intevene' on football
premier league match
Highlights will be shown on ITV under the new deal
Opposition MPs have called on the government to intervene after the BBC lost out to ITV on the rights to show Premier League football matches.

Liberal Democrat sports spokesman Bob Russell accused the football authorities of not having the long-term interests of the sport at heart, and urged ministers to act.

Other politicians sharply criticised the BBC after it lost out in the auction.

'The people's sport'

Mr Russell said it was a disgrace that "the people's sport" would no longer be shown on "the people's television".


I fear these matters are a matter for commercial negotiation and discussions of the BBC and others

Margaret Beckett MP
Leader of the House, Margaret Beckett, told him she understood his disappointment and said the government had tried to ensure that major sporting events could be seen by most people.

But she said: "I fear, however, these matters are a matter for commercial negotiation and discussions of the BBC and others."

The BBC lost out in bidding for coverage of the highlights to ITV, when the commercial network put up 183m for the three-year deal, against the BBC's 123m bid.

BSkyB will retain its coverage of live matches.

New BBC director general Greg Dyke said he was keen to retain Premiership football when he was appointed last year.

Licence fee

Conservative and Liberal Democrats accused the corporation of failing sports fans - despite a hike in the licence fee.

Culture and Sport Secretary Chris Smith has welcomed the deal, saying coverage would still be available to mass audiences.

Paulo Wanchope
West Ham's Wanchope: A Match of the Day favourite
Conservative sports spokesman John Greenway said: "This is yet another own goal for the BBC.

"Last year they lost cricket, for exactly the same reasons, and they don't seem to have learnt any lessons. What is going on at the BBC?

"Many viewers will begin to question whether the BBC really is the public broadcasting service that it was set up to be.

"They have had a big increase in their licence fee and where is that money going?"

In February, the BBC won a 3 rise in the licence fee.

Dyke does his sums

Chris Smith said: "I'm very pleased that domestic football will continue to be available on terrestrial television.

"Coverage of football has increased dramatically over the last 10 years, and the competition over rights has produced a very lucrative deal for the Premier League clubs."

Mr Dyke said the BBC was not a bad loser and denied the loss reflected badly on his personal performance.

He said the corporation would have had to have bid 67m to have won and it just could not have afforded the Premier League highlights, although he acknowledged executives had been disappointed.

But he said they were delighted at having won back the rights to FA Cup matches.

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See also:

14 Jun 00 | FA Carling Premiership
BBC loses Premier League rights
28 Jan 00 | UK
Dyke's daunting challenge
25 Jan 00 | The Economy
Broadcasters battle for football
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