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Women’s World Cup, Paralympics poised for addition to UK ‘crown jewels’ list

Football’s Fifa Women’s World Cup and the Paralympic Games are reportedly set to be added to the ‘crown jewels’ legislation governing sporting events reserved for broadcast on free-to-air television in the UK.

The Times newspaper said the Paralympics will be added to the list immediately, with the government set to announce a consultation process that is likely to lead to the Women’s World Cup and the women’s equivalent of men’s events ringfenced for free-to-air exposure included on the list.

The subject of free-to-air coverage of sports events has returned to the table in recent months and debate has intensified following strong audience figures for this year’s Women’s World Cup, Cricket World Cup final and Wimbledon grand slam tennis tournament.

Earlier this week, it was reported that UK parliamentarians will review the possibility of making the Cricket World Cup free-to-air in the country following the England team’s victory in the 2019 edition.

The opposition Labour party last month said it will look to revise the current ‘crown jewels’ legislation governing sporting events reserved for broadcast on free-to-air television by adding more women’s sport and the Paralympic Games.

Current legislation

Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who has been working on the changes, said: “Sport has a unique power to unite the nation. But to maximise its ability to inspire, our sporting crown jewels must reflect the diversity of sporting talent across the country. Adding the Paralympic Games to the list rightly puts it on the same footing as the Olympics.

“I also want to see greater equality in the coverage of women and men’s sport on TV. Later this year, I will consult on adding the equivalent women’s events to the men’s events already on the list.”

Current legislation stipulates events such as the Olympic Games, men’s Fifa World Cup, Wimbledon and football’s men’s FA Cup final must be broadcast on linear channels that are available to 95 per cent of the population.

The so-called ‘crown jewels’ events are also underpinned by a voluntary code established in 2009. Two separate lists (Category A and B), reserved for events with “special national resonance”, were last updated in 2000 and the current Conservative government last summer confirmed it had no plans to look at them again.

Category A events are those to which live rights must be offered to free-to-air broadcasters at a fair and reasonable cost. They include: the Olympic Games; men’s Fifa World Cup; Uefa European Championships; FA Cup final; Scottish Cup final (in Scotland); Grand National; Derby; Wimbledon finals; Challenge Cup final; and Rugby World Cup final.

Category B, for which only highlights are protected for free-to-air coverage, includes: cricket Test matches played in England; non-finals matches at Wimbledon; all other matches at the Rugby World Cup; Six Nations games involving home countries; Commonwealth Games; World Athletics Championships; the final, semi-final and matches involving ‘home nations’ at the Cricket World Cup; Ryder Cup; and Open Championship.

The Times said the new consultation will not lead to any bid to return Test cricket to Category A, despite the interest around the Cricket World Cup final. It added that some women’s cricket matches could be included in Category B.