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Reaction to free-to-air decision

Andrew Strauss lifts the Ashes
England won the last home Ashes series this summer, televised on Sky

The Ashes has moved a step closer to returning to free-to-air television after an independent review recommended the iconic cricket series be returned to the list of British sport's 'Crown Jewels'.

Also recommended for a return to the list are all of the home nations' home and away qualification matches for the football World Cup and European Championships.

The new 'A' list of events includes the Open golf championship, the entire Wimbledon tournament and Rugby World Cup, and Wales' home Six Nations matches.

606: DEBATE
GoonerMaestro

Three events, the Epsom Derby, the rugby league Challenge Cup final and the Winter Olympics, have been offered up for delisting and the 'B' list protecting highlights has been abandoned altogether.

BBC Sport gathers reaction to the recommendations, which were published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport following an inquiry headed by former Football Association executive director David Davies.

DAVID DAVIES

"The panel's task was to look beyond the interests of any one sport, and assess the events that really matter to society in the modern age.

Davies explains Ashes recommendation

"I believe our report is challenging for the sports governing bodies, the broadcasters and the government. But unashamedly it puts the viewing public first.

"On that night in August when England won the Ashes, the BBC One national news was led by cricket, the ITV news was led by cricket, Sky News throughout the day was led by cricket.

"Throughout that summer for five Test matches, cricket figured prominently on the national news in this country every day.

"My only question is if that was not an event of national resonance, what was it? I was also uneasy about the fact that millions of children were unable to see it live.

"We are asking cricket that once every four years - and not until 2016, in six years' time - that 25 days of cricket are free-to-air in one summer."

GILES CLARKE, ENGLAND AND WALES CRICKET BOARD CHAIRMAN

"This report will have a disastrous impact on grassroots funding for every sport. Surely the people who play sport have the right to be properly funded, properly coached and play in proper, safe places?

ECB boss David Collier warns of impact of free-to-air choices

"Listing will have a significant impact on funding at all levels. It will be absolutely devastating.

"We wouldn't have the money for coaches, we estimate at least half the players would have to be made redundant, let alone the grounds that we support, the schools and the Chance to Shine programme.

"This Prime Minister has rightly promised a golden decade of sport.

"If Mr Davies' report is to be implemented there will be a decade of decay across the recreational game - not just in cricket but in other sports as well.

"We see it as being something that would take cricket back to a position of extreme poverty."

ANDY HUNT, BRITISH OLYMPIC ASSOCIATION CHIEF EXECUTIVE

"We are extremely surprised and disappointed. We believe it is imperative that Winter Olympic sportsmen and women are given the same opportunity as their summer sport counterparts to allow the country to unite in the excitement generated by their Olympic participation.

"We need look no further than the success of Team GB's women curlers in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, which attracted a late night audience of approximately six million free-to-air television viewers in the UK.

"We strongly feel that the Olympic Winter Games meet the key criteria outlined in the review. We certainly believe that the Winter Olympics are a pre-eminent international sport event, involving the national team and, as the curlers proved in 2002, capable of commanding a large television audience which is not simply of significance to those who ordinarily follow the sport concerned."

ROGER DRAPER, LAWN TENNIS ASSOCIATION CHIEF EXECUTIVE

"We are extremely concerned at the recommendation that the entire Wimbledon Championships be added to the list due to the negative impact we believe this will have on investment in tennis.

"We will be engaging fully with the Secretary of State during the proposed consultation and we will argue strongly that the listing should not be extended if we are to avoid damage to grassroots tennis.

"Why change the status quo if the only effect of that is to damage the sport by reducing the investment we have available to grow tennis, including to new audiences, and develop British talent?"

IAN RITCHIE, ALL ENGLAND CLUB AND WIMBLEDON CHAMPIONSHIPS CHIEF EXECUTIVE

"Wimbledon has been extremely successful and it seems strange at this time to alter a model that works for viewers, the public and funding of tennis. We value our relationship with the BBC but the market place needs to be balanced.

"The proposed change is based on entirely erroneous information and will seriously damage our ability to obtain the best deal for the Championships and British tennis.

"Listing the whole event is not in the interests of Wimbledon or tennis fans and we will be vigorous in presenting our case during the consultation period."

SIMON BAZALGETTE, JOCKEY CLUB GROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE

"It is clear to us that the Derby remains an event of national resonance, no matter what the Panel says.

"It has higher TV audiences than many other sports events and has probably the highest one-day attendance of any British sports event."

INTERNATIONAL RUGBY BOARD

"The IRB strongly believes that sports federations should determine the most appropriate manner of selling and distributing their rights, to reach a broad UK audience while at the same time maximising revenues for reinvestment in the development of the sport both in UK and globally.

"In the event that the list is not eventually abolished, the IRB would not support a move away from the status quo regarding Rugby World Cup which currently sees the final on the A list but leaves flexibility for the live dissemination of the other 47 matches.

"Any restriction on Rugby World Cup's right to achieve the best possible mix of exposure and financial return will have negative consequences for the sport of rugby in the UK at all levels."

NIGEL WOOD, RUGBY FOOTBALL LEAGUE CHIEF EXECUTIVE

"We are disappointed by this report and will be lobbying the government, the Secretary of State and the Sports Minister over the coming weeks to ignore its findings.

"When we presented our case earlier this year only three out of eight panel members were actually present and we were not given any indication that such a major decision was being considered."

BEN BRADSHAW, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

"Sport is a key element in our national identity, part of the glue that binds us together as a society. We want to ensure that everyone has access to the sports events that matter most to the nation, as well as a strong financial footing for our leading sports.

"We intend to publish shortly a formal Government consultation on the report's recommendations. Following the conclusion of the statutory 12-week consultation period, the Government will bring forward its final decisions."

HUGH ROBERTSON, CONSERVATIVE SHADOW SECRETARY FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

"There's huge disgruntlement and this whole issue is like an onion when you pick it up as a politician. There are lots of votes for putting sport back on terrestrial TV but when you start to peel the onion down there are all sorts of different layers, such as the amount of money that goes directly to grassroots.

"You then peel another layer off those events that are listed - the BBC or other free-to-air broadcasters have to pay a fair market rate. If you have a huge list, conceivably the BBC could have a very big bill and there's only one way to pay that. It's an extraordinarily complicated issue.

"I hope over the next three months that sports will bring forward their evidence, that the government will commission proper rigorous, independent financial advice and we will therefore be able to see exactly what the financial consequence of what listing cricket is - exactly much the grassroots are going to lose out... then the secretary of state has to make a political judgement weighing those things in the balance."

DON FOSTER, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SHADOW SECRETARY FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

"It is high time the Ashes were brought back to free-to-air television and the panel's decision is great news for cricket fans. The idea of a voluntary code might be a good one, but the public has lost out in the past because of the collapse of so-called gentlemen's agreements.

"If we want to protect our most treasured sporting events, now would certainly not be the time to abandon listing. Many people will mourn the loss of the 'B-list' - it might be outdated but the fact remains that far more people have access to free-to-air programmes and want to see highlights of their favourite sports.

"In light of the changes proposed, the BBC must reassert its commitment to sports broadcasting, including major competitions, highlights packages and minority sports."

BBC

"The BBC welcomes the recommendations made by the Davies Panel on listed events, and the support the report gives to the principle that it is in the public's interest to protect events of national importance to ensure they remain free to air.

"We will be reviewing the findings and recommendations and will respond in full in due course."

MICHAEL GRADE, ITV EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN

"The support of David Davies' panel for the continued protection of free-to-air coverage of major sports events is good news for UK viewers.

"In particular, we welcome the recommendation that national football qualification games should be given equal status to those during the World Cup and European Championship finals, and the proposed addition of the whole Rugby World Cup tournament.

"Digital switchover is not closing the huge gulf that exists between the reach of free-to-air and pay TV. Twenty million-plus audiences for these events on ITV and BBC are simply not achievable on pay television. We look forward to engaging with Government over the consultation period."

CHANNEL 4

The last free-to-air broadcaster to screen live home Test matches before Sky acquired the rights, Channel 4 are not thought to be interested in immediately getting involved in cricket again.

But a spokesperson said: "We would consider bidding for sporting rights as and when they do come available for tender."

COLIN GRAVES, YORKSHIRE COUNTY CRICKET CLUB CHAIRMAN

"It is essential for cricket that a competitive bidding process remains, particularly as terrestrial television companies have openly stated that they have no real interest in broadcasting cricket and would be reluctant to pay for these rights.

"The repercussions for our club and for cricket in general could be disastrous. The Prime Minister has stated the next decade will be a golden era for British Sport, but if the panel's recommendation is accepted it could have precisely the opposite effect for cricket."



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see also
Panel names free-to-air choices
13 Nov 09 |  Sport Homepage
ECB ready to battle for Sky money
13 Nov 09 |  England
Ashes set for free-to-air return
12 Nov 09 |  Sport Homepage
TV's 'crown jewels' Q & A
13 Nov 09 |  Sport Homepage
Scottish FA dismayed by TV plan
13 Nov 09 |  Internationals
BBC renews radio cricket contract
23 Dec 08 |  England
Brown worry on football coverage
11 Sep 08 |  UK Politics
Uefa eyes change to free TV football
06 Jun 08 |  Business
ECB extends deals with Sky & Five
05 Aug 08 |  Cricket
ITV scores in FA Cup rights fight
30 Mar 07 |  Business
ECB wants active TV rights market
14 Jul 06 |  Cricket


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