The BBC has terminated its contract with the R&A to offer live coverage of next year’s Open Championship, with Sky stepping in a year early to show the live action from Royal Troon.
The 2016 Open Championship was supposed to have been the BBC’s final year as the exclusive live broadcaster, but owing to severe cutbacks, the corporation has elected to get out of the contract 12 months ahead of schedule.
It means that after showing 30 days of live golf as recently as 2010, there will now only be two – the Saturday and Sunday of the Masters, although it is widely understood that Sky will soon hold the monopoly over that event as well. The Women’s British Open will also immediately switch to Sky.
In statement, the R&A suggested it was reluctant to allow the BBC to walk away. This is not only because of the fact that Sky was only willing to pay the BBC rate of £10 for the extra year, and not the reported £15m it will from 2017. But with the R&A now in charge of the world feed, there were logistical problems and there was the feeling that the corporation was acting in an unprofessional manner after a 60-year relationship.
“After significant deliberation, the R&A has accepted the BBC’s proposal and agreed that the BBC be allowed to amend its broadcast arrangements for The Open 12 months early,” the statement read. “The R&A approached Sky Sports to assess its willingness to broadcast the Open from 2016 rather than 2017.
“The R&A is grateful to Sky Sports for agreeing to commence live broadcasting of The Open a year early. No additional revenue will be received by the R&A in 2016 as a result of this new arrangement.”
Martin Slumbers, the new R&A chief executive, expressed his regret at the premature termination. “It is sad to see the BBC’s live coverage of The Open end, and I know some fans will be disappointed,” he said. “The relationship between The R&A and the BBC spans more than 60 years, and we understand the challenging circumstances that the BBC is currently presented with. I know the BBC will produce compelling highlights, which will be enjoyed by a large prime-time audience. We are committed to delivering a spectacular edition of The Open next year at Royal Troon, and working with both Sky Sports and the BBC we will ensure compelling coverage for millions of fans throughout the UK and Ireland.”
With the ending of the BBC’s contract, Peter Alliss has already delivered his last ever Open commentary.