BBC’s Future Open Rights in Doubt Says R&A Chief

By Community | April 23, 2012

The Chief Executive of the Royal & Ancient (R&A) Golf Club, Peter Dawson, has warned the BBC they may lose their rights to the Open if they persist in reducing it’s live golf coverage.

From next year, the BBC will screen only six days of live mens’ professional golf. The corporation has a contract to show the Open live until 2016 but, speaking at this year’s venue of Royal Lytham & St Annes, Dawson made it clear there is no guarantee of that agreement being extended.

“Certainly,” replied Dawson when asked if the BBC’s gradual withdrawal from golf was a concern to the R&A. “We have had that conversation with the BBC. They know we have got our eye on them. It hasn’t just been in golf but with the likes of tennis as well.

“You have to stay in practice and keep up with advances in technology. You need to be in practice to do it well. We obviously want the Open Championship to be seen by as many people as we can. The BBC know they need to get off the financial plateau they are on with the Open Championship by the next time it comes around. Who knows who will be on the scene then?”

Contractual talks are due to get underway between the R&A and the BBC about 18 months before the present deal ends.

For now, the Open is placed on a B section of listed events earmarked for free-to-air coverage. Others alongside them, such as the Ryder Cup and domestic Test cricket matches, only have highlights coverage on terrestrial television.

The R&A report strong advance ticket sales for this year’s Open, despite the competition of the Olympics in London. July will mark the 11th playing of the championship at Lytham & St Annes and the first time since 2001. It is hoped than an increase on the aggregate 180,000 attendance from 11 years ago will be secured.

“That would be a good achievement in an Olympic year for London,” Dawson said. “We thought there would be some effect but we are not seeing it in ticket sales at this point. Corporate hospitality is storming along, it is well up on last year. Corporate sales are stronger than they have been.”

Spectators will be able to use mobile phones again on a Open course following a decision to remove the ban on mobile phones which has been in place since 2006 in order to enhance the experience for the general public. Calls will be allowed in designated areas but photography and video recording will not be permitted during the four days of the championship.

“There is no denying the attachment people feel to their mobile phones both in terms of gathering information and staying in touch with family and friends,” Dawson said. “We understand this and allowing their use at the championship will enrich the Open experience.

by Ismail Uddin