Should the Masters leave the BBC?


Otherwise golf’s audiences will become marginalised, says James Tompkinson

In 2013, the BBC will show just six days of live golf, with Sky Sports holding broadcasting rights to almost every tournament. The last two days of the Masters will be shown live on the BBC, as will the entirety of the Open.

These are the two tournaments that golfers – and general sports enthusiasts – in the UK get excited about.

There is no real reason why the Masters is seen as more important than either the US Open or the PGA Championship in Britain – other, perhaps, than the fact it has been shown on terrestrial television for decades – accessible to a wide-reaching audience.

Casual golf fans need to feel like more than just extras who watch a few hours a year and nothing more. I was speaking with a professional at a pay-and-play facility recently who said that in 2012 there was a distinctive increase in numbers on his course in the week following both the Masters and the Open. He went on to say that this didn’t hold true for either the US Open or the PGA.

As much as the BBC have been criticised for using non-specialist pundits such as Gary Lineker and Michael Vaughan, Peter Alliss is a national treasure and is better than anything Sky Sports can offer. “It’s like playing poker with someone who has millions when you only have hundreds,” says Alliss of the bidding scenario. Golf on the BBC is in danger of taking a fatal turn, and that would be a tragedy for the sport.
As much as the BBC have been criticised for using non-specialist pundits such as Gary Lineker and Michael Vaughan, Peter Alliss is a national treasure YES

Sky Sports’ coverage is better and that’s all that counts, insists Joe Harrison

For a long time, the BBC led the way on sports coverage. Match of the Day was an institution, Steve Rider was super-cool as he fronted motorsport, rugby and golf – and even snooker and darts were given genuine care and attention. But over the years ‘Auntie’ has grown lazy and progressively more flabby.

The same pundits have sat in the same chairs for too many years and the licence-paying public have had enough. For many golf fans, the final straw came with Gary Lineker’s inclusion in the BBC Masters team.

This was a slap in the face for a sport that has served them well over the years. Lineker provided exactly the sort of banal insights you would expect from a former footballer.

Hazel Irvine has stepped in since and admirably props up much of the coverage, but even she has not always been entirely able to distract the viewer from shortcomings elsewhere – most infamously from Michael Vaughan’s ‘interviews’.

Sky, on the other hand, have spent the last 23 years providing quality coverage in abundance to justify their hefty subscription fee. Monty is marmite, but he is knowledgeable and a relevant voice for the modern game. He sums up Sky’s recruiting of the best.

Last year’s Ryder Cup is the only evidence needed to prove this. The Miracle in Medinah dominated the headlines even though it wasn’t broadcast live on terrestrial TV. Golf would be fine without the Beeb.