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BBC drop a bombshell by giving up its Open coverage to Sky Sports a year early

The broadcaster is looking to save money.

No more Ken Browne.
No more Ken Browne.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE R&A HAVE accepted a request from the BBC to amend the broadcast arrangements for the Open one year earlier than planned.

Sky Sports won the rights for live coverage of golf’s showpiece event in a five-year deal worth £75 million from 2017 onwards but it’s now been announced that the new broadcast agreement will commence 12 months early.

The 145th Open at Royal Troon will now be exclusively broadcast on Sky Sports with BBC carrying a highlights programme each night.

In a statement released this morning, the R&A said after ‘significant deliberation’ they agreed to the BBC’s proposal.

“We are looking forward to world-class coverage of The Open from our partners at Sky Sports and are grateful that they have stepped in a year early,” said Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A.

“It is sad to see the BBC’s live coverage of The Open end and I know some fans will be disappointed.  The relationship between The R&A and the BBC spans more than 60 years and we understand the challenging circumstances that the BBC is currently presented with,” he continued.

“I know the BBC will produce compelling highlights, which will be enjoyed by a large prime-time audience.

“We are committed to delivering a spectacular edition of The Open next year at Royal Troon and working with both Sky Sports and the BBC we will ensure compelling coverage for millions of fans throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.”

Golf - The Open Championship 2015 - Day One - St Andrews BBC will still have live radio coverage of the Open. Source: David Davies

The partnership between the R&A and BBC is one of the longest running in sport and the news of Sky Sports’ acquisition of the rights for one of the sporting highlights of the year was met with anger by some quarters.

In a blog post on the broadcaster’s website, BBC Sport Director Barbara Slater outlined their reasons for terminating the contract prematurely.

“The funding agreement announced in the Chancellor’s July budget and the overview of the BBC’s future finances outlined in the Charter Review proposals make it clear that the BBC is faced with some challenging financial savings targets,” she wrote.

“Sport on the BBC is not immune to those pressures and they are compounded by the highly inflationary nature of the rights market.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that the BBC targets its resources to ensure maximum choice and value for money for licence fee payers.

“We have already made long term commitments to a wide range of major sporting events, including the Wimbledon Championships to 2020, the next two Football World Cups, Match of the Day to 2019, 6 Nations to 2021 and the next three Olympic Games.”

The new agreement is said to save BBC £7 million next year.

The 2016 Open takes place between 14-17 July at Royal Troon in Scotland.

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Ryan Bailey

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