Sports 'Crown Jewels' resistance makes no sense

I’ve discussed my views here in the past about the importance of the sports ‘Crown Jewels’ and the list announced on Friday makes interesting reading.

The advisory Review Panel, led by former BBC journalist and Football Association chief David Davies, was always going to be contentious and it was impossible to please all of the people all of the time.

Even though I don’t tend to watch them myself, the omission of the Winter Olympic Games, the Epsom Derby and Rugby League Challenge Cup Final has caused more than a little surprise.

The fact that England's home cricket Test matches, the Six Nations, Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships, Cricket World Cup - final, semi-finals and matches involving home nations and Ryder Cup are now all to be up for grabs raises a number of questions.

It suggests that any cricket other than the Ashes is not important enough to be available to the masses – and the same goes for athletics given that the two biggest events for British audiences after the Olympic Games are the World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games.

It’s also interesting to note that the UEFA Champions League, which needs commercial funding to sustain its lucrative benefits, has no requirement even for terrestrial highlights under the current recommendations.

The fact is that sport is incredibly important – it provides entertainment, promotes patriotic and community fervour.

But is at grassroots level where sport provides the most positive impact.

When spectators, young people in particular, watch sports events, it captures their imagination and encourages them to get involved themselves.

That, in turn, promotes healthy living, a sense of respect for opponents and collaboration with team-mates, dedication and determination, focus and discipline.

In those respects, the transferrable benefits of sport have such a huge potential influence on society.

Participating in sport can cut the strain on the health service, reduce crime levels in young people, and provide experiences which benefit people in the workplace. It’s a no-brainer.

Yet it is getting more and more expensive to watch sport live, putting added pressure on television to provide viewing opportunities for those who cannot watch events in person.

Paying for sports facilities, coaches and equipment requires massive funding – and as many of the sports federations have said today in reaction to the proposed revised list, preventing certain events from signing lucrative subscription or pay-TV deals could prove disastrous for grassroots sport.

But it’s interesting to note that despite the benefits of Sky’s investment in sport through its coverage deals, only around six million homes currently subscribe and so can watch the events, which is less than a quarter of the total audience.

And how much of the Sky money actually goes all the way to the grassroots?

If you take the Premier League, for instance, since its inception, clubs have invested heavily in foreign players and big wages, rather than developing and nurturing lower league players whose transfer fees provided a knock-on all the way down the football tiers.

Watching sport is inspiring.

If federations have to work harder to secure additional sponsorship, the fact that the potential audiences will be so much larger than on subscription channels should be compelling enough an argument to make up the shortfall.