Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sports 'should be free-to-air'

Welsh Six Nations rugby and Wales football championship qualifiers are among sport to be protected for free TV channels if recommendations are backed.

They are among the recommendations of a review of free-to-air listed events announced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the move would allow fans to enjoy the excitement of international matches.

But it would "devastate the finances" of Welsh rugby, said the Six Nations.

If the recommendations are adopted, England's home Ashes Tests would return to free-to-air television from 2017.

Home and away football qualifiers for the home nations would be listed, along with Wales' home and away Six Nations rubgy matches, Wimbledon tennis and the golf Open.

"I came to Wales, to the land of my fathers, and I was confronted by the outgoing First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, who said to me: 'Dai bach, your responsibility is to save Welsh rugby for the next generation by making sure live Six Nations rugbyis protected,'" he said.

"Moments later the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union told me I would be personally responsible for decimating Welsh rugby if it was protected, so that is the dilemma that the government ultimately is going to have to decide on."

"This secures sporting events such as the Six Nations rugby, qualification matches in the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Football Championships and the Ashes home matches for the maximum size of audience and allows all fans to enjoy the excitement of our international games.

"The affect of this will be to allow today's outstanding sports stars to inspire the up and coming generation to develop their potential for representing Wales to the full in future."

A spokesperson for the Six Nations said it was reading the review and all its comments but that its initial response was: "If the

Welsh international rugby hospitality in the Six Nations hospitality are included in any final list from this draft recommendation, it will not only devastate the finances of the Welsh Rugby Union but also significantly affect all rugby unions within the Six Nations and rugby in the Northern Hemisphere in general."

Executive chairman Michael Grade said: "The support of David Davies' panel for the continued protection of free-to-air coverage of major sports events is good news for UK viewers."

Under the recommendations, the Winter Olympics would no longer be protected for free-to-air TV.

The Epsom Derby, and rugby league's Challenge Cup final have also been removed.

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