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Culture Secretary calls for equal broadcast recognition for disabled, women’s sport

Jodie Taylor of England is challenged by Linda Sembrant of Sweden during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Third Place Match match (by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has reopened the debate over the ‘crown jewels’ legislation governing sporting events reserved for broadcast on free-to-air television in the UK by stating that disabled and women’s sport deserve “equal recognition”.

Addressing the Royal Television Conference in her first major speech in the role, Morgan stated that while the government has no intention to undertake a full review, the Listed Events regime does need to be reviewed.

She said: “Firstly, this nation has a long-standing commitment to para-sport. The UK hosted what is widely considered the first ever Paralympic Games in 1948. And the London 2012 Paralympics was widely considered the greatest of all time – supported of course by Channel 4’s groundbreaking coverage. And now just like the Olympics, we are consulting on adding the Paralympic Games to the Listed Events regime.

“Secondly, the recent (Fifa) Women’s World Cup showed the energy and passion that women’s sport can generate. A record-breaking 28.1 million people tuned into the BBC’s coverage of the tournament, on TV and online.

“I want to build on this momentum and make sure future generations of female sporting talent can be inspired by who they see on their screens. So today I can announce that I have written to the relevant rights holders to seek their views about adding women’s sporting events to the Listed Events regime. So where a men’s event is listed, the women’s equivalent would be too.

“I believe that this would be an important step in giving female sporting talent the coverage they deserve and putting men’s and women’s sport on an equal footing at last.”

The subject of free-to-air coverage of sports events has returned to the table in recent months. In July, it was reported that the Women’s World Cup and the Paralympic Games would be added to the ‘crown jewels’ list.

The Times newspaper said the Paralympics would be added to the list immediately, with the government to announce a consultation process that is likely to lead to the Women’s World Cup and the women’s equivalent of men’s events ringfenced for free-to-air exposure included on the list.

In June, the opposition Labour party said it would look to revise the current ‘crown jewels’ legislation by adding more women’s sport and the Paralympic Games. Current legislation stipulates events such as the Olympic Games, men’s Fifa World Cup, Wimbledon and football’s men’s FA Cup final must be broadcast on linear channels that are available to 95 per cent of the population.

The so-called ‘crown jewels’ events are also underpinned by a voluntary code established in 2009. Two separate lists (Category A and B), reserved for events with “special national resonance”, were last updated in 2000 and the current Conservative government last summer confirmed it had no plans to look at them again.

Category A events are those to which live rights must be offered to free-to-air broadcasters at a fair and reasonable cost. They include: the Olympic Games; men’s Fifa World Cup; Uefa European Championships; FA Cup final; Scottish Cup final (in Scotland); Grand National; Derby; Wimbledon finals; Challenge Cup final; and Rugby World Cup final.

Category B, for which only highlights are protected for free-to-air coverage, includes: cricket Test matches played in England; non-finals matches at Wimbledon; all other matches at the Rugby World Cup; Six Nations games involving home countries; Commonwealth Games; World Athletics Championships; the final, semi-final and matches involving ‘home nations’ at the Cricket World Cup; Ryder Cup; and Open Championship.