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Funding cuts 'to keep Ashes on paid-for television'

24 June 10 14:58 GMT

Sports minister Hugh Robertson has warned that funding cuts to sport will further reduce chances of the Ashes returning to free-to-view television.

In January 2009 the previous government commissioned a review of what sporting events should be made free to air.

The England and Wales Cricket Board expressed concerns over losing revenue.

But Robertson said: "Public expenditure cuts will impact in sport so the way to equalise it is to give governing bodies freedom to market their own rights."

The review was chaired by former Football Association chief executive David Davies, whose team concluded that England's home Ashes matches should be on the list of 'crown jewels' along with the Olympics, World Cup, Grand National and other leading events.

But it now looks certain that the England and Wales Cricket Board will be able to maintain their exclusive deal with satellite broadcasters BSkyB, which currently runs until 2013, although in return the Government will seek assurances on grassroots funding and some changes to how the sport is run.

Back in February, Robertson said it would be "foolish" to deprive the ECB of their television money from Sky, which is thought to represent around 80% of their income.

Robertson is keen for sports to not be so heavily reliant on broadcast money however, and said he would "encourage" the ECB to introduce more independent directors.

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