Ashes returning to free-to-air TV

By Alex Stevenson

The Ashes will return to free-to-view television, it has been announced, as the government shakes up the ‘crown jewels’ of protected sporting events.

Former Football Association chief executive David Davies led the review whose conclusions are a major blow to Sky Sports, owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch.

Wimbledon, the Open and international football qualifiers are also protected, but the Epson Derby and Challenge Cup final have been delisted.

England’s cricketers won back the Ashes this summer in a thrilling series. But only two million viewers watched its climax, compared to over seven million for the 2005 series broadcast by Channel 4.

The English Cricket Board opposes the move. It expects to lose around £120 million as a result of the move, hitting funding for the grassroots of the sport.

Lawyers are already considering challenging the decision. Sports lawyer Mel Goldberg told the Times newspaper: “With the government banging the drum about obesity, cricket has a good argument that it is getting more people playing the sport because of money from Sky’s coverage.”