You could lose The Open! BBC warned they must move with the times or risk losing another crown jewel
00:05 GMT, 24 April 2012
The BBC is in danger of losing another of its sporting ‘crown jewels’ after organisers of The Open golf championship fired a warning shot on Monday.
Less than a fortnight after the Grand National was screened by the Beeb for the last time, the ruling Royal and Ancient made clear The Open will follow suit unless the corporation raises its performance — and its offer.
The Open is now the only men’s golf event the BBC broadcasts for all four days. R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said: ‘It is a concern. They have to stay in practice and keep up with the advances in technology in broadcasting.
Warned: The BBC were told to up their game at a Royal & Ancient press conference on Monday
'They know we have our eye on them, for sure. They are also well aware they need to come off the financial plateau they are on with regard to The Open at the moment.'
Dawson’s comments will alert not only Sky but possibly ESPN as well. The R&A already have a contract with the American broadcaster to show The Open in the States.
The Open is on the B list of crown jewels, which means a highlights package has to be made available to be shown on terrestrial television. But it is the live rights that are the glittering prize and Sky would pay a fortune if given the chance.
As for keeping up with advances in technology, Dawson will have noted the Masters was shown in 3D on Sky this month.
Strengthening the R&A’s case is the fact the professional game is on a high in the UK, with the world’s top three players all hailing from these shores. Darren Clarke’s Open victory last year was watched by 6.1 million viewers, the highest figure for eight years.
The BBC once covered 24 days of live men's golf a year but that number has now dwindled to just six, comprising The Open and the weekend’s play from the Masters.
Magic moment: Darren Clarke's win at The Open last year was enjoyed by millions watching the BBC
Dawson also had a dig at the stunt of having former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan conducting interviews at Augusta. 'It did seem a rather unusual choice,' he said.
The BBC’s contract with the R&A
runs until 2016, and they have two time-honoured trump cards: they can
offer the widest possible audience and they have shown The Open for more
than half a century.
But Dawson’s comments send a clear signal they would be making a grave mistake to overplay these.
'Who knows who else will be in the market by then' asked Dawson. 'Maybe ESPN for all I know.'
McArthur, chairman of the championship committee, said: 'The Open has
been shown on the BBC for 50 years and we’d like that to continue.
we recognise they show a number of sports and their coverage of golf
has dropped dramatically, so we’re keeping an eye on it.'
Tradition: Peter Alliss has been commentating on the BBC for decades
The BBC argue they cannot afford live golf any more, so there does not seem much chance of them coming off the financial ‘plateau’ Dawson is talking about.
Only last month it was announced that Sky will now be the only place to watch live play from the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and the Scottish Open in July.
At the Masters, the BBC’s voice of golf Peter Alliss said: 'It’s sad, it’s the end of an era. The racing has gone and Formula One has gone. It’s very hard to compete with someone with seemingly unlimited funds. The BBC can’t compete.'
A BBC spokesperson said: 'The BBC have only recently signed a new deal for The Open golf until 2016. We are completely committed to this event and are looking forward to bringing the Championship to audiences for the next five years.’
Dawson was speaking at the R&A’s traditional press gathering, where his candour on a number of subjects made for a refreshing contrast to the desperate flummoxing of Masters chairman Billy Payne at Augusta.
The alarming increase in the use of
the belly putter and the on-course antics of Tiger Woods were two more
subjects that vexed him.
Having a go: Dawson hit out at Tiger Woods
the former, he admitted the R&A had watched with dismay as many
younger players had taken up the belly putter and are looking again to
see if the wretched thing meets all the rules regarding method of
That’s the good
news. The bad news is that, even if it doesn’t, it will be 2016 and the
next rules update before action is taken.
As for Woods, Dawson didn’t mince his words when asked about the player’s swearing and spitting.
'There’s no denying it is an unedifying spectacle,' he said.
shrill sound of mobile phones will be heard again this year after a
five-year ban following the 2006 edition at Hoylake, when their
continual use drove a number of players to distraction.
year’s Open will be staged the week before the Olympics, and the
R&A have been pleasantly surprised it appears to be having no
Dawson expects up to 200,000 people to make it to Lytham, always one of the most popular venues on the rota.
'We’re in good shape and feel fortunate to be able to say that.'
What a shame the same can’t be said about golf on the BBC.
Memorable: Millions have watched classic sporting moments in years gone by