POLITICIANS at Holyrood will today discuss the sale of television rights for The open Championship to Sky Sports and will call on the Scottish government to keep the event on terrestrial television.
Former Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Tavish Scott has warned that golf’s pursuit of higher revenues could lead to the games administration leaving the home of golf at St Andrews.
Tavish Scott chairs the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Golf and is tabling questions in Parliament today asking what the Scottish Government is doing to keep the Open on terrestrial TV.
From 2016, The Open will only be shown live on paid-for satellite TV after Sky Sports agreed to pay more than £10 million a year to snatch exclusive live rights from the BBC.
The decision was made by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) in St Andrews who organise The Open.
The R&A say they would have preferred Sky to share live coverage with the BBC in a similar model to the US Masters however Sky would only pay big money for exclusive live rights.
Tavish Scott said that the losing the world’s biggest golf tournament from the BBC to pay TV is a retrograde step and may herald other changes that are not good for Scottish golf.
Estimates say that last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles was worth £100m to the Scottish economy and The Open, due to be played this July at St Andrews, brings tens of millions into the local economy.
Tavish Scott said: “The Open should be on free TV. Golf needs the greatest exposure to new and existing fans. Giving the game to satellite television reduces the number of people who will see the essential sporting drama of an Open Championship.
“But such a move could herald wider changes. If money is now the be all and end all to the games administrators, the R&A, who says they will stay in St Andrews, may soon go elsewhere.
“Some years back cricket was based at the home of cricket – Lords Cricket ground in London. But the money men got a hold of the game.
“Now international cricket is run from Dubai. Scotland and St Andrews are the home of golf. The world game started in Scotland and our golf courses are internationally renowned. We market Scotland on the strength of golf.
“I expect the Scottish Government to meet the R&A and press the importance of the Open Championship being available for everyone to see on terrestrial TV.”