The BBC will concede broadcasting rights for the Open Championship if it continues to scale back live golf coverage, according to R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.
From next year, the BBC will only screen six days of live mens golf. It has a contract to show the Open live until 2016 but, speaking at this year's venue of Royal Lytham & St Annes, Dawson made it clear there’s no guarantee the agreement will extend.
“The BBC know we have got our eye on them,” he said. “You have to stay in practice and keep up with advances in technology. You need to be in practice to do it well.
“We obviously want the Open Championship to be seen by as many people as we can.
“The BBC knows it needs to get off the financial plateau they are on with the Open Championship by the next time it comes around. Who knows who will be on the scene then?
Dawson volunteered ESPN – who holds a US broadcast deal with the R&A – as potential rivals to the BBC, while Sky will almost certainly put a bid in. Contractual talks are due to get underway between the R&A and the BBC about 18 months before the present deal ends.
For now, the Open is placed on a B section of listed events earmarked for free-to-air coverage. Others alongside them, such as the Ryder Cup and domestic Test cricket matches, only have highlights coverage on terrestrial television.