BSkyB warns 'crown jewel' panel on restricting rights

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The Independent Online

BSkyB believes restricting competition for broadcast rights could put "increased pressure" on sporting bodies investing in the elite and grassroots, in a last-minute submission to the independent body reviewing which events should remain freely available to the public.

The deadline for submissions to the government-appointed panel reviewing the Free to Air Listed Events closed on Monday.

Sky had already put forward one submission, before adding the findings of an independent report it had commissioned from Deloitte on the day of the deadline.

Sky wants the rules relaxed over the so-called "crown jewel" sporting events, which include Wimbledon and the football World Cup. It also wants to protect its rights to screen international cricket matches.

The former Football Association executive director David Davies is chairing the panel and will publish his conclusions in August.

Sky commissioned Deloitte to investigate the impact of broadcasting on sport and in particular on the funding of sports governing bodies. The report said: "Broadcasting plays a key role in supporting the financial sustainability of many sports as well as providing a 'shop window' through which sports are able to promote themselves."

It added that the broadcasting revenues were "often critical" in determining how much a sport's governing body will invest in the development of the game. "Factors that restrict the ability of a sports organisation to generate broadcast revenues may place increased pressure on other funding sources to cover any potential shortfalls," the report said.

There has been huge focus on cricket recently, with many pointing to the popularity of the Ashes in 2005, shortly before the rights were sold to Sky.

Sky said its funding makes up 75 per cent of its growth in revenue. The England and Wales Cricket Board now spends 71 per cent of its budget on the community and grassroots programmes and the elite game, which includes internationals and first-class cricket. Deloitte found it has doubled its funding to the grassroots development of the game between 2000 and 2008.

"The more revenue generated, the greater the potential investment that can be dedicated to elite and community funding," it said.

The report said some sports bodies preferred the the wider exposure of free-to-air broadcasting and different revenue streams it brings including sponsorship, while others preferred higher revenues from rights agreements with broadcasters.

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