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Diamond League blackout averted in UK, Sky Italia renews commitment

Action from men's 3000m steeple race at 2019 edition of Diamond League meeting in Brussels (Photo by DIRK WAEM/AFP via Getty Images)

Live coverage of World Athletics’ Diamond League competition will be shown by the BBC this season after a late agreement was struck by the public-service broadcaster with the IMG agency.

The BBC has updated its schedules to reflect that it will offer live streaming and red button coverage of the season opener in Monaco tomorrow (Friday).

The last-minute agreement means that there will not be a blackout of coverage in the UK market, and also comes as Sky Italia, the pay-television broadcaster, has outlined its plans to broadcast the 2020 season.

The Discovery owned pan-European broadcaster Eurosport held the rights in the UK from 2015 to 2019, excluding the UK stops, the live rights to which were held by the BBC. However, the curtailed 2020 season caused by the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of both the Gateshead and London legs.

BBC has also acquired rights to stream the Stockholm, Lausanne, Rome and Doha meetings, according to The Daily Telegraph, with the only Brussels stop not being shown live as it clashes with the broadcaster’s coverage of the British Athletics Championships.

The BBC will continue to offer its one-hour highlights programme after each meeting and has scheduled highlights of the Monaco opener at midday (BST) on Saturday.

Live coverage is also streamed in certain countries internationally on the official Wanda Diamond League YouTube page.

In Italy, Sky Italia has retained the rights for the 2020 Diamond League and will offer live coverage from Monaco’s Louis II Stadium tomorrow.

Sky took on the Diamond League rights in Italy in 2018 after the closure of Fox Sports Italia, the Fox Networks Group-owned satellite pay-television channel in Italy. Fox’s agreement was to run from 2017 to 2019.

Public-service broadcaster Rai is the host broadcaster and domestic rights-holder to the Diamond League’s Golden Gala meeting in Rome, which will be held on September 17.

Last November, World Athletics axed eight disciplines from the core programme of the 2020 Diamond League as part of efforts to create a “faster-paced, more exciting” series to heighten its broadcast appeal.

It was decided that four male and female disciplines would not be contested – the discus throw, triple jump, 3000m steeplechase and the 200m. There had been plans for the 200m and 3000m steeplechase to be included in 10 meetings this season, and for discus and triple jump to feature in two, but the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a much smaller calendar and the new changes are not set to be implemented.

Great Britain was one of seven countries chosen to carry out the research into the discipline changes and the lack of a rights partner in the UK will come as a major blow to World Athletics.

The 2020 Diamond League season will comprise events in Monaco, Stockholm, Lausanne, Brussels, Rome, Doha and a to-be-confirmed venue in China. The Lausanne and Brussels meets will serve as exhibition events.

Last September, World Athletics signed a 10-year international media-rights agreement with the Infront agency, which includes the sale of international rights to the Diamond League, from 2025.

(additional reporting by Martin Ross)