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Ashes cricket to return to free-to-air TV as new 'crown jewels' list set to spark ECB fury and Westm


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Ashes cricket to return to free-to-air TV as new 'crown jewels' list set to spark ECB fury and Westminster row



By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 12:00 PM on 13th November 2009




The Ashes could return to terrestrial television after a Government review ruled today that it should be on a 'crown jewel' list of sporting events.

The cricket series has been put on the list of events whose broadcasting rights should not be given to satellite channels.

The proposals are good news for fans, many of whom could not watch this summer's Ashes live, won by England in the final test at The Oval, because it was only on Sky.

If the Government wave through the recommendation, Sky would have to either share the rights to live Test cricket with a terrestrial broadcaster or ditch it altogether.


But the move is likely to be contested by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), who will argue the sport will be devastated if it loses the £300million deal with Sky.



Enlarge article-1227167-06CAAD2F000005DC-393_468x253.jpg Main event: Andrew Strauss lifts the Ashes this summer


The issue could end up in a High Court tussle, if sports chiefs decide to lodge a judicial review.


The Ashes was last broadcast free-to-air in 2005 on Channel 4. With Sky contracted to screen the 2013 series, a 2016 return is the most likely.


The new list was published today by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport after an inquiry by ex-Football Association chief David Davies.

Mr Davies said: '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.


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

The current 'crown jewels' of televised British sport include the World Cup Finals and Wimbledon.

As well as the Ashes, today's review said other events should be added - including qualifiers for the World Cup and the European Championship involving UK teams.

Last month England's qualifying match with Ukraine for next year's World Cup in South Africa was shown live only on the internet, after a website bought the rights to broadcast it.

The report's recommendations would prevent the same thing happening again.

article-0-062B88460000044D-998_468x286.jpg Gordon Brown and Rupert Murdoch sit side-by-side at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2007. The pair spoke on the telephone on Tuesday night




Wimbledon and the Open Championship are also on the list. Both are currently shown on terrestrial television but would be ring-fenced from any future satellite deals.


Also listed are the Olympics, the Grand National, the FA Cup, the Rugby World Cup.

Three events have been offered up for removal - the Epsom Derby, the

Rugby League Challenge Cup final and the Winter Olympics.


The review was ordered in December 2008 by Andy Burnham, then Culture Secretary, after the ratings success of the Beijing Olympics for the BBC.


The 'crown jewels' of sport



  • Olympic Games
  • Wimbledon
  • Football World Cup
  • Home nation World Cup qualifiers
  • UEFA Champions League
  • FA Cup Final
  • Ashes Home Test series
  • Rugby World Cup
  • Grand National
  • Open Golf championship
  • Wales Six Nations rugby games (Wales only)
  • Scottish FA Cup (Scotland only)


Previously, there have been too lists - one of events that should be broadcast free-to-air as they happen live and a second for highlights shows.


But today's report said this was 'out-of-step' with modern technology and should be ditched.


Instead, it recommended having a single list of events deemed of 'national resonance' that should be free-to-air.


The ECB argues that cutting satellite channels out of the market would have a knock-on effect for the funding of county cricket and the grassroots game.

Just under two million watched the climax of the 2009 Ashes on Sky compared with the 7.4million who watched the same stage in 2005, when it was last shown free-to-view on Channel 4.

The panel said governing bodies were 'best-placed' to know what is in the interests of their sport but that its role was to look beyond the interests of that game alone.

It had to consider if a substantial section of the public would be 'deprived' the chance to see 'events of major importance to society'.


It found 83 per cent of people believe that paying the licence fee means they should be able to watch certain events free-to-air.

Sky was praised in the report for 'driving innovation' in how sport is covered in the UK but urged to consider what is in the public's best interests and whether it would broadcast some events free-to-air.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1227202/Ashes-cricket-return-free-air-TV.html#ixzz0Wl2PyXNa

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