CALLS FOR FREE TV FOOT­BALL

Sunday Herald - - FRONT PAGE - EX­CLU­SIVE BY AN­DREW WHI­TAKER

THE UK’s Sports Min­is­ter is un­der pres­sure to en­sure that all of Scot­land’s com­pet­i­tive in­ter­na­tional foot­ball matches are shown for free on ter­res­trial TV.

Cam­paign­ers have pre­vi­ously said the Euro­pean Union should use its pow­ers to draw up a list of top sport­ing events – the so-called “crown jewels” – which are deemed to be of ma­jor im­por­tance to so­ci­ety and should there­fore be broad­cast on free-to-air TV

How­ever, Scot­tish Labour MP Ian Mur­ray said that as Brexit was “in­evitable” the UK Gov­ern­ment had to find other ways to look at how Scot­land’s games could be shown free on TV, with­out the pub­lic hav­ing to pay to view on chan­nels like Sky.

Mur­ray, who sup­ports EU mem­ber­ship, said the move was needed be­cause many Scots miss out on see­ing the games due to Sky hold­ing the rights to qual­i­fiers for the na­tional side’s com­pet­i­tive fix­tures.

Live cov­er­age of Eng­land’s qual­i­fiers for Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup will be aired on free-to-air tele­vi­sion as ITV has re­tained ex­clu­sive rights.

How­ever, Sky Sports has bought the rights for all in­ter­na­tional qual­i­fy­ing matches in­volv­ing Scot­land, North­ern Ire­land, the Repub­lic of Ire­land and Wales dur­ing the same pe­riod.

Mur­ray said the UK’s Sports Min­is­ter Tracey Crouch should use her pow­ers over broad­cast­ing to ex­am­ine what op­tions there are for re­turn­ing all Home Na­tion games to ter­res­trial TV. He sug­gested the UK Gov­ern­ment should add Scot­land’s foot­ball qual­i­fiers to its own list of events that are re­served for ter­res­trial TV, which in­clude the foot­ball World Cup fi­nals and the Wim­ble­don ten­nis fi­nals.

He also said The Open golf cham­pi­onship should come back to free-to-air TV af­ter Sky was awarded a con­tract for the event, which next takes place at Carnoustie in July next year.

The Ed­in­burgh South MP said: “We should look at op­tions for re­turn­ing the crown jewels of sports cov­er­age to free-to-air TV.

“There is a com­mer­cial con­sid­er­a­tion for the gov­ern­ing bod­ies of sports and the fund­ing stream they get from broad­cast­ing rights deals, but we have a sit­u­a­tion where sport­ing suc­cess is be­ing viewed by fewer and fewer peo­ple each year be­cause of af­ford­abil­ity.

“The Open is no longer on BBC live, for ex­am­ple, and it’s aw­ful that you can’t turn on the TV and watch it in the way that you used to. Gov­ern­ments and gov­ern­ing bod­ies should look at what they can do to al­low games to be on free-to-air TV.”

He added: “It’s in­evitable that we are leav­ing the EU, so the Depart­ment for Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Media and Sport should look at what op­tions there are now whether it’s leg­is­la­tion or other mea­sures.” Last night, the Labour MP John Gro­gan, a long­stand­ing cam­paigner for free-to-air sports broad­cast­ing, backed Mur­ray’s call. Gro­gan, the MP for Keigh­ley in West York­shire, said: “In or out of Europe the qual­i­fy­ing matches of the Scot­tish na­tional foot­ball team should be on free-to-air TV as hap­pens now with the na­tional teams of France, Den­mark and Ger­many. “In 2018, it is ab­surd that the Open Golf Cham­pi­onship at Carnoustie will be hid­den be­hind a pay­wall. “The next gen­er­a­tion of Scots, whether their par­ents can af­ford pay TV or not, need to be in­spired by view­ing sport­ing stars per­form­ing at all the top events.” Crit­ics have said Mur­ray’s pro­posal would starve sport gov­ern­ing bod­ies such as the Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of the cash from con­tracts with Sky that are worth tens of mil­lions of pounds to the sport, in­clud­ing rev­enue that is made avail­able to grass-roots clubs. The UK Gov­ern­ment con­firmed it had no plans to add in­ter­na­tional foot­ball matches and The Open to its own list of events that are re­served for ter­res­trial TV. Other pro­tected events in­clude the the FA Cup fi­nal, the Grand Na­tional, the Olympic Games and the Rugby League Chal­lenge Cup Fi­nal. A Depart­ment for Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Media and Sport spokesper­son said: “We cur­rently have no plans to re­view the list. Ne­go­ti­a­tions on tele­vi­sion rights are a mat­ter for the sports au­thor­i­ties and broad­cast­ers.”

Labour MP Ian Mur­ray says the next gen­er­a­tion of Scots need to be in­spired by view­ing sport­ing stars at top events Pho­to­graph: SNS

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