Free-to-air plan 'will devastate sport in Wales' Bosses fear impact on grass roots funding.Byline: TOM BODDEN
WELSH sports bosses were furious last night at plans to restrict sale of their TV rights to free-to-air broadcasters.
Football, rugby, cricket and athletics executives joined a chorus of disapproval at being placed on the list of British sport's TV 'Crown Jewels'.
A UK Government review, headed by former FA chief and broadcaster David Davies, recommended a return to the protected list for cricket's Ashes series, home and away qualification matches for the footballWorld Cup and European Championships, The Open golf,Wimbledon tennis and the Rugby World Cup. Wales was alone among the home rugby unions to have its 6 Nations matches ring-fenced for free-to-air broadcast because of the popularity of the game to Welsh viewers.
Three events were offered up for delisting, with the Epsom Derby, the Rugby League Challenge Cup final and the Winter Olympics vulnerable.
Angry general secretary of the Football Association of Wales David Collins said: "This is a disaster. Taking the freedom away from governing bodies to negotiate their own contracts will decimate sport in Wales The most popular sports in Wales are football and rugby union. Wales, like other constituent nations of the UK, enjoys independent representation in major world sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup and in the Commonwealth Games (however as Great Britain in the . It will devastate the financial support we can give for the grassroots game."
The FAW now has a contract with Sky and S4C for coverage of its championship qualifiers.
The Welsh Rugby Union The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) (Welsh: Undeb Rygbi Cymru) is the governing body of rugby union in Wales, recognised by the International Rugby Board. is bitterly opposed to losing its negotiating strength to generate as much income as possible. Its contract with the BBC for the 6 Nations runs till 2013.
TheWRUdistributed pounds 17m in the game in Wales last year, pounds 1.8m to grassroots.
The England and Wales Cricket Board The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is the governing body of cricket in England and Wales. fear it could be denied a huge chunk of the pounds 300m Sky pay for the sport's overall package.
The BBC is now favourite to acquire more rights.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan was pleased that 'some of Wales' most cherished sports will be protected for free television channels'.
"The effect of this will be to allow today's outstanding sports stars to inspire the up and coming generation." David Davies added: "Our report unashamedly puts the viewing public first."
Some 82% of viewers believe they are entitled to watch such events free because of the licence fee.
The political decision rests with culture secretary Ben Bradshaw: "We want to ensure that everyone has access to the sports events that matter most to the nation, as well as a strong financial footing for our leading sports."
WALES Vs SAMOA -SPORT THE EVENTS ON THE LIST . Wales Six Nations matches. Summer Olympics. FIFA World Cup finals This is a list of all the finals of the FIFA World Cups, including results and host nations. The competition has been played since 1930 and is governed by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). . UEFA UEFA Union of European Football Associations
UEFA n abbr (= Union of European Football Associations) → U.E.F.A. European Championship finals. Grand National. FA Cup final. Scottish FA Cup (Scotland only). Home and away qualifiers in FIFA FIFA International Association Football Federation [French Fédération Internationale de Football Association]
FIFA n abbr (= Fédération Internationale de Football Association) → FIFA f World Cup and UEFA European Championships. Wimbledon Championships. Open Championship golf. Home Ashes cricket Test matches. Rugby Union World Cup
Wales' Six Nations matches and World Cup Qualifiers would both be protected under the plans