Ah, the Ofcom Code on Sports and Other Listed Events (the “List”). Not the snappiest title, but contained within is the UK Government’s very noble attempt to ensure that sports fans don’t have to fork out £60 a month to Sky to watch some decent sport now and again. The List is currently in the midst of a seemingly never-ending review (and with a currently Murdoch-friendly Government in power, who knows how that’s going to end). However, the List currently denotes which annual sporting events must be shown live on terrestrial, free-to-air television, and which of those at the minimum must be shown on terrestrial TV by way of a higlights package.
Therefore, the List currently looks like this in terms of football: (my thanks to Wikipedia)
Group A (guaranteed live terrestrial coverage):
The World Cup (all matches)
The European Championships (all matches)
The FA Cup Final
The Scottish Cup Final (Scotland only)
Why my chagrin, you ask. Well, in the last few weeks, FIFA and UEFA were mercifully defeated in the European Court of Justice, in their attempt to stop the World Cup and the Euros being shown in their entirety on UK terrestrial television.
FIFA’s motto is “the Good of the Game.” Blatter and his organisation constantly talk about “transparency”, “Fair Play” and earlier this week “those in power taking responsibility.” I cannot see how a bid to remove the World Cup from free to air television chimes with any of these values. FIFA’s argument was that the List, as it stands, blocks competition in terms of the EU’s competition laws. In short hand, of course, this can be translated into “we want to sell the World Cup to Sky/ESPN/other sports provider and get paid an even bigger sackload of cash than what we currently receive.”
The BBC (and it applies to ITV in this context too, even if in its many other remits it has the temerity to keep Jane McDonald in employment) acts as the public service broadcaster – ensuring that, by way of the List, the most important sporting events (and the Boat Race) can be broadcast for all and sundry. This turns the World Cup into a national event – like it or not, when England are in the World Cup, the whole country tunes in collectively to enjoy it. The same can be said of a great game in the first round of the Euros (Czech Rep 3-2 Netherlands in 2004, anyone) or a thrilling World Cup first round game in which the underdog triumphs (Cameroon 1-0 Argentina, 1990) or that enthralling, edge of your seat World Cup semi between two utter giants of the game (Italy 2-0 Germany, 2006).
The ECJ’s judgement is to be welcomed – as common sense, but also as an opportunity for the country to continue to collectively enjoy a summer, every 2 years, in front of the telly watching top notch international football. Plus, it also means Blatter makes a wee bit less cash from the World Cup…