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UK Athletics faces challenge to retain value of BBC deal

UK Athletics is set to be met with a fresh challenge, with public-service broadcaster the BBC reportedly only keen to extend its rights deal with the embattled organisation on significantly reduced terms.

The BBC is only willing to pay a fraction of the current fee, reports The Guardian, in part due to the dwindling popularity of athletics. The BBC is thought to pay between £3m (€3.6m/$3.9m) and £4m per year, plus production costs.

The BBC signed a six-year extension to its rights deal in July 2013. The previous BBC contract, also a six-year deal, was due to expire in 2014 but was extended through to the end of 2020.

The deal ensures events such as the Anniversary Games and the British Championships are shown on free-to-air television in the UK. The agreement granted the BBC rights to all UKA events, including two Diamond League meetings a season.

It is claimed that UKA has made little progress on a potential new deal with the BBC. The UKA told The Guardian that, while UK Athletics has made “good progress in our discussions with a number of potential broadcast partners including the BBC”, major events do “not need to be exclusive to one provider and this is where more options are becoming available to us with the best levels of financial return”.

UKA has been rocked by a series of setbacks in recent months, culminating in Tuesday’s announcement by UK Sport that it has commissioned an independent first stage review into the body to define the key components of a ‘fit for the future’ organisation for athletics in the UK and recommend areas of change.

The unprecedented review will identify actions for the governing body to help the sport move forward, as well as defining any areas for further review. The initial discovery phase will consider the strategy, leadership, governance, operation, culture and connectivity of UK Athletics within the context of the sport as a whole.

This work will sit alongside independent reviews that have already been commissioned into safeguarding and UKA’s response to issues surrounding the Nike Oregon Project, the venture led by now-banned coach Alberto Salazar.

UKA last month appointed Nic Coward as its temporary chief executive as the search continues for a permanent successor to Niels de Vos. Coward became UKA’s second interim appointment to the role since de Vos stepped down in September 2018.

UKA is said to believe World Athletics’ new 10-year international media-rights agreement with the Infront agency will also aid its finances.