Dyke vows to win football back for BBC

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The Independent Online
IN LANGUAGE that Sir John Birt would never have used, Greg Dyke said yesterday he would fight to get live football coverage back on BBC television. "You can get football if you duck and dive a bit - it's not exactly a BBC way of doing things," he said.

On Channel 5's Gloria Hunniford chat show, the BBC's new director-general - who takes up his post next year - revealed a wheeler-dealer approach to running the corp- oration. His remarks were taken to mean that his BBC will not invest hundreds of millions in going head-to-head with Sky for big competition contracts.

However, BBC insiders said the "ducking and diving" could come into play to secure deals to cover British clubs playing in European competitions.

The BBC has been criticised for its wholesale loss of sports contracts, and for allowing Sky to dominate live football coverage with the rights to Premier League football and next season's Uefa Cup matches of Tot- tenham, Leeds and Newcastle.

Mr Dyke is a seasoned negotiator for football rights. In 1992 he led an ITV team that bid for the rights to Premier League football, but narrowly lost the contract to Sky.

Next year, Mr Dyke is expected to appoint a sports supremo within the BBC, possibly at management level, charged with regaining a range of sports rights.

The footballing DG also indicated yesterday that he was ready to give up his directorship of Manchester United, saying: "I don't think you can be on the one hand trying to buy sports rights and on the other hand trying to sell them."

He acknowledged, however, that the BBC was unlikely to regain Test cricket in the near future. Other BBC sports losses of recent years include the Ryder Cup golf and the Formula 1 World Motor Racing Championship, as well as England's home matches in the soon-to-expand Five Nations Rugby Union Championship.

The comments on football amounted to Mr Dyke's first declaration of strategy since winning the director-general post last month.