Sports Associations Protest over Sky Ruling
Clark, Nick, The Independent (London, England)
Ofcom tells broadcaster to slash prices for rivals to show matches
The governing bodies for cricket, rugby union and Premier League football were yesterday united in their condemnation of Ofcom's plans to force BSkyB to slash the charges for rivals to broadcast its matches.
The Premier League, The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said the move would cut funding significantly, leading to less investment in the grassroots and less overall quality on the pitch.
Ofcom announced in June that it was set to force Sky to offer its premium broadcasting - including sports and Hollywood movies - to rivals including Virgin and BT at cheaper wholesale prices. It yesterday published the responses to the third phase of the review.
The proposals have left Sky furious and, last week, chairman James Murdoch said the move represented "a threat to the climate for investment" in the UK.
The Premier League called Ofcom's latest consultation "fatally flawed in a number of key areas" adding it was "ill-conceived and unnecessary".
"Given the absence of any real identifiable consumer harm, it is impossible to understand why Ofcom persists in trying to radically intervene," the league's lawyers DLA Piper said in yesterday's 132- page submission.
The sporting bodies fear that the regulator's remedies will remove incentives to bid on content rights. The Premier League said it would "devalue Premier League rights which will harm the Premier League member clubs, football and most importantly consumers. The same is true for other UK sports and this can only lead to less investment."
The RFU added that Ofcom "massively underestimates" the effect of the proposals, saying the value of its live, terrestrial and mobile rights would fall 60 per cent. It believes the subsequent fall in investment would mean a reduction in coverage for lesser matches, less support for the grassroots game and a reduction in its donations to charitable foundations.
The ECB said it relies on competitive broadcasters to secure good returns for its media rights that then allow it to invest in the game. …