R&A unhappy – still missing golf on BBC

Ivan Morris

Portrait of BBC commentator Peter Alliss during the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews in Scotland in October 1993. (photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Like many enthusiasts for watching golf on TV, I was disappointed when the BBC lost out to BSkyB in the bidding War to broadcast future Open Championships in 2015.

Watching golf on the Beeb had such a nice change of pace to it. The Open, without Peter Alliss, didn’t feel like The Open at all. When the advert breaks came on SKY, I was prone to become distracted and drift away to do something else. You dared not drift away if Peter Alliss, Alex Hay and Ken Brown were commenting on anything – be it obvious or obscure.

As things have turned out, I cannot fault SKY Sports for the time and resources they have put into showcasing golf. Moving The Open to a more commercial network didn’t matter as much as I thought. I still believe SKY does not cover golf as well as the BBC did, but it is by no means bad and, when all is said and done, it’s the golf shown that matters not the people talking about it. I can make up my own mind about what I see.


Even though the agreement with SKY included limitations on ad breaks and the R&A has used the proceeds to develop golf participation worldwide, I still pine for the BBC coverage. Of course, Alex Hay and Peter Alliss are now observing golf from the Great Clubhouse in the SKY (no pun intended) and it might not be the same? Wayne Reilly, Andrew Coltart and Paul McGinley are more than adequate replacement ‘kibitzers’ on SKY, but it’s been great to hear input from Ken Brown this year, too. He should be made a permanent fixture on the SKY team.

If golf is not readily available on TV, and is hidden away on a subscription channel most people won’t even know what it is. It could be that all sport on TV may be irrelevant soon? Kids today are more and more into their X-boxes and social media. For them to access golf is boring, expensive and largely inaccessible.

It made me smile in a most uncharitable way to hear that the R&A is fuming that the British Grand Prix Motor Race has announced that it will begin at 3pm on the same Sunday as the final day of the Open Golf Championship whose leaders are scheduled to tee off at 2.30pm.

Well, not many who read golf magazines will be bothered one way or the other. They won’t be watching any Grand Prix if The Open is on TV elsewhere. Serves the R&A right for its short sightedness in failing to make sure at whatever the cost of having its most important event shown on BBC.

At a time when golf needed its governing body to guide it through troubled times, and help to halt a steady decrease in participants, the R&A ‘took SKY’s shilling” and its showpiece event disappeared off terrestrial TV. Since moving to a subscription channel, non-golfers hardly ever see the game on TV anymore. If you don’t ever see golf being played how can you become inspired to ‘give it a try’ someday?


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11 responses to “R&A unhappy – still missing golf on BBC”

  1. Pat morgan avatar
    Pat morgan

    Great piece by Ivan Morris regarding BBC and SKY,so miss the voice of Peter alliss .

  2. MBleakley avatar

    Wise words. I miss Alliss’ ramblings but welcome the mix of native accents/ accents.

  3. John Mac avatar
    John Mac

    Really miss every aspect of BBC coverage especially no adds:(

  4. Rob Cooper avatar
    Rob Cooper

    It’s a tricky one. Like Ivan, I loved the BBC coverage of the Open. And the Masters, back in the day when transmissions were more limited. But the BBC always provided great coverage across all of the sporting events such as Wimbledon, the Five Nations (as it was) and so on. They also always managed to unearth gems of broadcasters that perfectly suited their sports – Peter Alliss, Bill McLaren, Murray Walker, Dan Maskell and Peter O’Sullevan to name a perfect handful.
    But the BBCs coverage was almost exclusively the elite events – the creme de la creme of the sporting calendar. And of course, when kids see the best and recognise excellence, trumpeted by the dulcet tones of the aforementioned broadcasters, of course they are inspired to pick up a tennis racket, rugby ball or golf club.
    Times have changed though. Without Sky and other subscription channels, we golfers wouldn’t have coverage of 40+ major tour golfing events every year, football supporters wouldn’t have every premiership match to digest and so on. The idea that the Beeb could retain just the elite events, eschewing the ‘ordinary’ events with the current broadcasting model in play is unfortunately, unrealistic. It brings to mind that whilst we gain in some ways, we lose in others.
    Providing wall-to-wall coverage on subscription channels delivers for the ardent supporter of ‘their’ sport – but loses the once-a-year visitor that lived by the annual rhythm of the Beeb’s sporting calendar. Different times. What price progress?

  5. Helen Sweeney avatar
    Helen Sweeney

    You’re so right Ivan!

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