Inside Lines: Green light as ambitious BT throw their hat into the ring

 

BT, the telecoms giant with ambitions to bring about a Skyfall – or at least a partial eclipse of the satellite channel's domination of TV sport – did not include boxing when announcing plans to launch two new subscription channels in July.

However, I understand they are likely to add the sport to a portfolio which already includes 39 Premier League games, tennis and rugby by acquiring BoxNation, the boxing channel set up 18 months ago by backers including promoter Frank Warren and Simon Green, now the head of BT Sport.

Green, formerly BoxNation's chief executive, remains an executive director and is keen to incorporate into BT's programming their daily output of news and interviews, plus regular live coverage of domestic and international fights. This would be seen as a further direct challenge to BSkyB, from whom Green has already snatched £738 million of Premier League TV rights.

Since the BBC ditched boxing, Sky were its prime outlet before the start of BoxNation, for which subscribers pay £10 a month. Last year Sky controversially signed an exclusive deal with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom, which upset other promoters.

One of BoxNation's attractions for BT is that they have links with Golden Boy, the US promoters now bidding to sign GB's Olympic stars, as well as exclusivity to the Warren stable and Frank Maloney's world heavyweight prospect David Price. BT's determination to be a major player in the TV sports market is underlined by a desire to bid for Champions' League and England matches, while it is believed they might even buy out the final years of ESPN's FA Cup contract.

Sparkes makes a splash

Unusually for a sports administrator, David Sparkes has never been shy of speaking his mind. But it appears he may have spoken out of turn by publicly chastising national treasure Tom Daley for his involvement with the ITV reality diving show Splash! His views have attracted scores of rebukes, from Lord Coe to Daley's mum, and may yet prove ill-timed for Sparkes, whose role as British Swimming's chief executive is under scrutiny following the sport's poor 2012 performance.

Sparkes, who commutes from his home in Germany, kept his head above water despite the deluge of criticism. But for how much longer?

British Swimming have a new chairman, the former Manchester United director Maurice Watkins, who is said to be unamused by this aquatic spat.

Plunging the depths

Never mind the Daley waterfall. What the hell is Gabby Logan doing co-hosting something as bad as Splash!? Herself a former international gymnast, she has become a terrific sports presenter, up there with Clare Balding and Sky's Jeff Stelling as the best.

Her appearance on Channel 4's Big Fat Quiz of the Year, when fellow panellists' schoolboy lewdness spewed out, left her inwardly squirming with embarrassment. As for Splash! – we see enough dodgy diving on Match of the Day, thanks.

Death on canvas

A fascinating piece of fistiana goes under the hammer later this month when a rare early portrait of a bare-knuckle fighter, George "The Coachman" Stevenson, whose death led to the first set of rules for boxing, is being sold by London auctioneers Bonhams.

Stevenson was the first recorded boxing fatality. He died a few days after a fierce 45-minute scrap with English champion Jack Broughton at Tottenham Fairgrounds in 1741, leading his opponent to draw up a code of rules to prevent a recurrence. These first boxing regulations were universally used until the Marquess of Queensberry's almost a century later.

The portrait of the Yorkshire pugilist, an oil on canvas, is estimated to fetch £10,000-£15,000 on 29 January.

a.hubbard@independent.co.uk

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