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Page last updated at 23:58 GMT, Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Britain's top sports make grassroots TV cash promise

By Matt Slater

A TV camera comes in for a football close-up
The Premier League's current UK TV deal is worth 1.8bn over three years

The UK's leading governing bodies for sport have agreed to reinvest at least 30% of their domestic television revenues in grassroots projects.

This sum, a big increase on the initial 5% target, amounts to £250m a year.

Representing six of this country's most popular sports, the nine signatories to the voluntary code include the Football Association and the Premier League.

"This is an important statement of their intent to invest in the future," said Sports Minister Hugh Robertson.

"I welcome this commitment and could not support it more strongly."

The impetus for drawing up a code came from the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA), the new name for the Central Council of Physical Recreation, an umbrella organisation that represents 320 national bodies for sport and recreation in the UK.

The idea first emerged two years ago, when pressure was growing on the leading sports to keep their main events on free-to-air television.

At that time, it was expected the code would include a promise to make "reasonable efforts" to ensure some amount of free-to-air exposure. That appears to have been dropped, although the increase in the reinvestment commitment from 5% to 30% is an achievement.

Tim Lamb, the SRA's chief executive, said the agreement underlines the importance of allowing each sport to make its own decisions about broadcast deals.

As a former chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Lamb is only too aware of the controversy that surrounds a decision to take the greater financial benefits on offer from a pay-TV broadcaster as opposed to the reduced amounts available from free-to-air broadcasters with bigger audiences.

"Striking the right balance between audience reach, revenue generation and grassroots investment is a matter for the governing bodies themselves to determine," said Lamb.

"The code is there to show everyone the responsible approach governing bodies take to finding that balance."

The nine organisations to sign up are: the All England Lawn Tennis Club/Lawn Tennis Association (joint signatories), the ECB, the PGA European Tour, the FA, the Premier League, the Royal & Ancient, the Rugby Football League and UK Athletics. In fact, the only member of the SRA's "major spectator sports division" not to sign up is the Rugby Football Union.

The compliance with the self-regulatory code will be monitored by a committee chaired by Charles Flint QC and all signatories apart from the PGA Tour currently exceed the 30% threshold.

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see also
TV overseas deal for top flight
30 Mar 10 |  Premier League
Burnham issues grass-roots plea
11 Mar 09 |  Sport Homepage
Top sports make free-to-air vow
22 Jan 09 |  Sport Homepage

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