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New BBC chair calls for review of ‘crown jewels’ list

David Clementi, the new chair of UK public-service broadcaster the BBC, has called for a review of the ‘crown jewels’ list of sporting events reserved for free-to-air television in the country.

Clementi was speaking as he addressed members of the government’s Commons culture, media and sport select committee to confirm his appointment.

UK newspaper The Guardian said Clementi surprised observers by suggesting the debate over what constitutes a crown jewel event should be reopened. He suggested that golf’s Open Championship be considered such an event and should not have been lost to pay-television broadcaster Sky.

In February 2015, Sky agreed a five-year deal with the R&A, which operates the Open, for the 2017 event through to 2021. However, the BBC in September 2015 ended its deal early, allowing Sky to assume coverage from last year’s edition.

Clementi said he regretted the loss of “one of two national occasions”, calling for the list of crown jewel sports to be reviewed. “There were just a few I regard as national events and I would like to see free to air,” he said.

The crown jewels list is governed by legislation and a voluntary code established in 2009, which was re-signed by the governing bodies of cricket, football, golf, tennis and rugby union and league in October.

Speaking in May, then-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, said that the government would not alter the crown jewels list. The events covered by the list include the Olympic Games, football’s Fifa World Cup and FA Cup knockout competitions, horse racing’s Grand National and the Wimbledon tennis grand slam, as well as several other tournaments.

There is also a designated B-list, which includes the Cricket World Cup and golf’s Ryder Cup, along with other events, for which only highlights are protected for free-to-air coverage. Whittingdale said that the government would not look to either add or remove sports from the list.