Winter Olympics stays free-to-air

Eurosport - Wed, 21 Jul 19:56:00 2010

The Winter Olympics and the Commonwealth Games will remain in the hands of free-to-air broadcasters after Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson announced plans to scrap proposed changes by the previous government.

- 0

Former Football Association executive director David Davies led an independent panel that proposed the removal of the two events, as well as recommending the Ashes and the whole of Wimbledon return to the list of ‘crown jewels' - those events ring-fenced for free-to-air broadcast.

But Robertson, who was ardently against the list when in opposition, has confirmed that report produced by the panel will be ignored until at least 2012, when Great Britain completes its switch to digital television.

Robertson said: "I fully support the principle of protecting major sports events for free-to-air coverage.

"But with Digital Switchover concluding in 2012, this will result in the widespread availability of a significantly-increased number of television channels, many of which will be free to air.

"Add to this the BBC's Strategy Review, which will cover sports rights, and the Ofcom Pay TV Review, and the broadcasting context for this decision is increasingly unclear."

Meanwhile, the news has been welcomed by the All England Club and the Lawn Tennis Association who were fearful of losing out on TV rights income, should Wimbledon in its entirety be placeed on the list.

Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Club, said: "As the rights holder we were extremely concerned that the proposed changes to a system which already works perfectly well would have had a severe impact on the future funding both of Wimbledon.

"And, because the LTA receives the annual surplus from The Championships, British tennis as a whole. "We welcome the Minister's decision to maintain the status quo as being in the best interests of viewers, the public and the funding of tennis in the UK."

Instead, Robertson wants to various governing bodies, who will accrue increased revenues from the ability to sell their television rights to pay-per-view broadcasters, to invest more heavily in grassroots sport.

LTA chief executive Roger Draper added: "We very much welcome this decision by the Minister for Sport.

"We have always argued that the status quo should be maintained. 58 per cent of the money we invest each year into British tennis goes into the grassroots, and today's announcement will ensure that we can continue to channel the majority of our income into this vital area of the game."

More than the Games / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account