The chief executive of the R&A has given the strongest hint yet that the BBC could lose the rights to broadcast the Open Championship when its current deal runs out following the 2016 event.
Addressing the media on the eve of this year’s tournament, Dawson acknowledged the organisation’s ‘extremely long and happy relationship’ with the BBC over the past 59 years and, whilst he was quick to insist that it would be ‘massively premature to speculate’ that the BBC might lose the rights, he did hint at such a possibility.
“Our current deal with the BBC expires at the end of the 2016 Open and what happens thereafter remains to be seen,” he said.
“Being a rights holder, we obviously have to balance that long-term relationship and the high viewership of the BBC against commercial considerations. The value of golf rights has accelerated dramatically, particularly in the United States just in the last 12 months. That’s perhaps a bigger item in the equation than it might otherwise have been, that’s for sure.”
"We’re not contemplating removing a golf course from the rota." - Peter Dawson
Dawson also allayed fears that Turnberry could be lost from the Open rota. As one of the most poorly attended and least commercially successful Open venues, there have been concerns that the Ayrshire venue might be dropped to make way for Royal Portrush, the Northern Ireland course which, last month, was formally invited to re-join the circuit. Turnberry’s recent purchase by American tycoon Donald Trump has heightened concerns over the security of its place on the circuit.
Dawson, however, appeared to lay waste to those suggestions. Asked if he envisaged the addition of Royal Portrush having any implications for any other the venues, he replied: “Only mathematically in that we would have one more course and, therefore, every other course will get the Open slightly less often. But we’re not contemplating removing a golf course from the rota.”
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