British athletics to be shown on BBC through to 2020

British Athletics extends partnership with BBC for the next seven years, building up to and beyond the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London

British Athletics/BBC

British athletics events will be televised on terrestrial channels through to 2020 thanks to an extension to the broadcasting partnership between British Athletics and the BBC.

The deal means that British Athletics’ grand prix events such as the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, which takes place at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford this weekend, and other high-profile domestic events such as the Sainsbury’s British Championships will continue to be shown on free-to-air television.

“British Athletics is absolutely delighted with this new deal with the BBC,” commented UK Athletics CEO Niels de Vos. “It will ensure that our elite events will be broadcast to the widest possible audience over the next seven years until at least 2020.

“We know that world class athletics on the BBC really fuels the public passion for the sport,” he added, “and we could not ask for a better partnership to showcase our sport. The commitment the BBC have shown and the length of the deal confirms the commercial appeal of our sport.”

The news is likely to provoke mixed reactions among the athletics community, with opinion seemingly divided as to whether BBC’s coverage of athletics is, as AW‘s editor Jason Henderson asked in the July 11 issue of the magazine, ‘a blessing or a curse?’

“It is probably the most popular talking point on the AW letters page and a topic that is guaranteed to divide opinion,” commented Henderson. “No one can deny the BBC’s loyalty to athletics nor dispute the importance of having the No.1 Olympic sport shown by such a broadcasting behemoth. Yet despite this, its coverage frustrates many athletics fans and the channel finds itself under constant fire.”

His point is reflected on the AW forum where there is much discussion as to athletics coverage on the BBC. Henderson continued to add: “For critics of BBC, I’d remind them of Channel 4’s stab at covering the IAAF World Champs in Daegu two years ago. Suffice to say the words “Ortis Deley” and “adverts” might put a chill down your spine.

“Ex-athlete pundits who chat while the action unfolds behind them seems to be the biggest gripe. Yet athletics is not alone. BBC’s Wimbledon team was almost entirely made up from former players, while its football coverage is similar. Most of all, I’d invite critics of the BBC to go to the United States or China, where athletics coverage is minimal outside the Olympics and even during the Games it is hopelessly partisan to the point of barely showing events that don’t have strong home interest. Dare I say we’re taking BBC for granted?”

» To read the full editorial comment from Jason Henderson see the July 11 issue of AW, which is available here

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