One of the most anticipated events of the golf calendar, The Masters at Augusta National, is a little over two months away. However, according to a report in The Telegraph (opens in new tab), for UK viewers, their options to enjoy the opening Major of the year may be about to become more limited.
That’s because, due to cost-cutting measures, the BBC is said to be thinking twice about renewing its deal to show highlights of the tournament. If the BBC does choose to turn its back on the Major, it will be the final act of an association that has become more tenuous in recent years.
Since 1986, when the corporation showed live coverage of The Masters, its hold on the tournament has become increasingly precarious, with Sky Sports having wrestled much of the coverage from the corporation in recent years.
The satellite TV rival first flexed its muscles in 2011, when Sky won the rights to broadcast each day of The Masters and the BBC was reduced to a delivering a highlights package and weekend coverage. Then, in 2020, the BBC began showing highlights only, with Sky Sports bagging exclusive live coverage in a multi-million pound deal. According to the report, even the cost of that highlights package exceeded £1m per year, and it appears that is a sticking point for BBC director of sport Barbara Slater.
The report comes just over a month after the BBC attracted criticism for snubbing US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick in its Sports Personality of the Year award. Among the people to express surprise at that decision was BBC presenter Gary Lineker – a keen golf enthusiast who even anchored the BBC’s coverage of The Masters in 2009.
If the news is confirmed and the BBC ends its association with the prestigious tournament, having originally shown coverage of it in 1967, it is sure to come as a blow to golf fans and raise further questions over the its commitment to the game.
According to The Telegraph, attempts to reach Augusta National for comment proved unsuccessful while a spokesperson for the BBC told the publication: “We do not comment on sports rights negotiations.”