Thursday 13 June 2019 / 10:34 AM Tom Watson

Labour champions adding women’s sports to list of key sporting events to be broadcast free-to-air

Labour will add women’s sporting events, such as the Women’s Football World Cup, to the list of key sporting events to be broadcast free-to-air.

In a speech to the British Screen Advisory Council today, Tom Watson MP, Shadow Culture Secretary, will announce that Labour will review the list and look to diversify the events included. The list has not been updated for over 20 years.

This is a step towards parity and putting women and men’s sports on equal footing, and will help ensure that the public can enjoy these events free of charge.

Labour will also add the Paralympics to the list of key events to be listed. The 2016 Rio Paralympic Games coverage drew 28 million viewers across the UK.

In his speech Tom will say that the Women’s World Cup Final and the Paralympics are crown jewel events, but at the moment they do not have equal status with other sporting events that are included on the list.

He will also point to the growing popularity of key women’s sporting events and the danger that, without action, the growing popularity could be stunted if the event rights were bought by paid TV.

He will point to the golf Open Championship which had a peak audience of 4.7 million on the BBC in 2014 when Rory McIlroy won at the Royal Liverpool, but the audience dropped by 75% the following year when tournament coverage rights were bought by Sky.

Last Sunday, the England vs Scotland Women’s World Cup match broke viewing records, with 6.1 million people watching on BBC television. This figure is comparable to major pay TV events such as the 2019 Europa League final which was watched by 6.4 million in the UK.

There has been growing interest in women’s sport by pay TV broadcasters, for example Sky’s 4 year rights deal with England Netball in 2016. Tom will say that is very ‘positive’ but that we need to be forward looking and ensure women’s crown jewel event remain free to air.

Coverage of listed events must be offered on “fair and reasonable” to broadcasters that reach 95% of the population free of charge.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport has the power to amend the list.

Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said:

“The current list is out of date and it’s Government’s job to make sure that the list of key events showcases all the best of British talent, right across our society.

“The huge viewing figures for the England Scotland game show how popular women’s sport is and why it’s so important to keep these key events free to air.

“Events like the Women’s World Cup and the Paralympics are crown jewel sporting events. It is time we give them the status, recognition, and protection they deserve.”