BBC 'won't match value of current deal' in UK Athletics renewal talks
The BBC, the UK’s public-service broadcaster, is unwilling to match the terms of its existing rights deal with UK Athletics, and is seeking to pay a reduced fee in any renewal, it has been reported.
The present deal worth £3 million ($3.8 million) per year is set to expire this summer, but discussions over an extension have hit a stumbling block with the BBC only prepared to offer "a fraction of what it currently pays" because of a decline in the popularity of the sport, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
Under its existing rights deal with UK Athletics, the BBC, the governing body's long-time partner, shows elite events including two IAAF Diamond League meetings, the British championships and the indoor grand prix.
It is possible that the rights could be shared by more than one broadcaster in the next commercial cycle.
UK Athletics told the Guardian that although it is making “good progress in discussions with a number of potential broadcast partners including the BBC," it believes major events “do not need to be exclusive to one provider and this is where more options are becoming available to us with the best levels of financial return.”
Domestic athletics events were shown by commercial broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 in the 1980s and 1990s.
However, the BBC has been the sport's main home since, and it also holds rights to World Championships and European Championships through its membership of the European Broadcasting Union.
UK Athletics' negotiations over a renewal with the BBC have been complicated by the governing body having lacked a chief executive since 2018, and a turbulent last 18 months dominated by off-field issues and the departure of various senior figures.
Niels de Vos, the last chief executive, who agreed the previous rights deal with the BBC, stepped down suddenly in September 2018.
He was due to be replaced late last year by Zara Hyde Peters, but she did not take up the post amid controversy over a previous safeguarding case involving her husband and a 15-year-old female athlete.
The position has still not been permanently filled, with Nic Coward, the former general secretary of English soccer’s Premier League, appointed interim chief executive last month.
It was announced this week that UK Athletics will be the subject of an independent first-stage review by UK Sport relating to various issues.
As well as de Vos, Richard Bowker, the UK Athletics chairman, and Neil Black, the performance director, have departed in the last 16 months.
Failure to land a significant broadcast rights fee is likely to further hamper the organisation’s finances as its reserves have decreased from more than £4.5 million in 2016 to £2.8 million last year.