BBC defends move to axe Open coverage a year early
The inimitable tones of Peter Alliss will never be heard broadcasting live from The Open again.
With final proof that the BBC has completely lost interest in covering golf, it has been announced that the R&A has agreed to rip up the last year of the contract and hand over to Sky from 2016.
Royal Troon was supposed to be the BBC's swansong but the broadcaster clearly felt the £10m it paid per annum, together with the sizeable production costs, would be better saved from a budget which faces swingeing cuts.
It was first reported in June that the BBC was looking to get out early, but at the time its PR department delivered a firm and "on-the-record" denial. Not the BBC's finest hour - certainly not in golf terms, despite the plan to screen a nightly highlights show from The Open.
It means that after showing 30 days of live golf as recently as 2010, there will be only be six in 2016. The Women's British Open will also switch to Sky from 2017, with the BBC also feared to be in danger of losing the Saturday and Sunday of the Masters.
The R&A suggested it was reluctant to allow the BBC to walk away.
"After significant deliberation, the R&A has accepted the BBC's proposal" 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."
The R&A is no doubt keen to make the point after the hysterical reaction which greeted the news that The Open was heading off free-to-air TV. Alliss pointed a finger at the governing body, saying "they have dipped their hands into the money."
Peter Dawson, the outgoing R&A chief executive, revealed he had received "hate mail". But it then emerged the BBC's attitude was a big factor, with Dawson laying bare its indifference.
"When we got to the second round of bids it was very clear the BBC were interested in pursuing the highlights option only - construe that as you will," he said pointedly.
BBC head of sport Barbara Slater admitted that golf did not make the cut in its list of priorities.
"Now, more than ever, it is critical that the BBC targets its resources to ensure maximum choice and value for money for licence fee payers. We have already made long-term commitments to a wide range of major sporting events," Slater said.
At the Dunhill Links, the four-day Pro-Am which tees off today at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, England's Danny Willett will usurp Rory McIlroy at the top of the European Tour order of merit with victory.
There's a strong Irish contingent in action, with Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gary Hurley, Paul McGinley, Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington, Paul Dunne, Kevin Phelan, Darren Clarke, Michael Hoey and Graeme McDowell all teeing it up.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship , Live, Sky Sports 4, 1.0