The veteran BBC commentator Peter Alliss has launched an attack on both his own paymaster and the R&A over the likely loss of coverage of the Open from terrestrial TV to Sky, according to the website of ‘The Daily Telegraph’
Alliss said “you can’t not criticise the BBC”, questioned the “value” in the corporation spending millions of pounds in the move to Manchester yet phasing out its golf coverage, and also claimed that the R&A is putting another nail in the coffin of golf participation by considering going to the pay-TV broadcaster.
“In one sense it seems to me it’s like playing poker against Donald Trump or Warren Buffett in that the BBC can’t compete against Sky’s bottomless pockets of money,” he said.
“And you can’t deny that Sky do a fantastic job. You might be annoyed at the adverts but they go to faraway places and cover these events even though there might be only eight people watching on Thursday. Their commitment to show everything is extraordinary.
“But, hand on heart, I can’t not criticise the BBC. They are far and away the R&A’s biggest television client, so why haven’t they said to them: ‘You know, we’re struggling against the financial might of Sky but why don’t we also cover some of the other events you run, like the Amateur Championship and the Boys Championship and the Walker Cup?’
“We used to do those events years ago, so why not again?” Alliss said in the Daily Mail. “I think it would have shown the R&A that they cared. I definitely think, going back, there were people who fought harder to keep tournaments on the BBC. At one point we covered 18 events.
“Now you look at the move up to Manchester and how many millions that cost, and you wonder about the value in that. This week we’ve got two or three hours of indoor bowls on each day which of course is of great interest to the people who play it but no interest at all to anyone else. I guess for some people it’s progress but for people like you and I, it seems a move in the opposite direction.’
“But I’m not sure the R&A balance the books in the best way. They’re very generous to golf clubs who have parts of their course eroded by the sea and do great deeds around the world. But think about the audiences the BBC get for the Masters over Sky. It’s always five times as much. Shouldn’t the R&A take those figures into account, when participation levels in the game are falling?”
The R&A has stood by the BBC as exclusive rights holders for more than half a century, publicly resisting the overtures of Sky Sports after live Open coverage was removed from the list of events protected for terrestrial broadcast.
But that commitment has been tested to breaking point since it last extended its contract with the corporation, with outgoing chief executive Peter Dawson leaving the door open for a pay-TV partner.
Alliss first worked in golf broadcasting for the BBC at the 1961 Open while still a player, became the corporation’s lead commentator in 1978. He has been in the box seat in witnessing the channel’s fading importance in recent years.
“I’m just glad I am 83 not 35 and reliant on working for the BBC’s sports department, because I think I would be looking for another trade,” Alliss said.
GBN.com believes that the negotiations between the R&A. the BBC and Sky Sports over live rights for The Open from 2016 are still ongoing but will be concluded within the next two weeks.
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