The new Sports Strategy: Broadcasting, integrity and major events

Policy Adviser, Leigh Thompson, takes a closer look at the new sports strategy, with a focus on broadcasting, integrity and major events.

The Government’s new sports strategy published today contains a wide range of important policy announcements and James Allen has already given an excellent summary of the key elements in his blog here.

In this blog I will take a look at three specific elements of the strategy in more detail: broadcasting, integrity and major sporting events.


The new strategy contains a welcome acknowledgement that sports governing bodies and rights holders are best placed to strike the most appropriate balance between audience reach and revenue raised from the sale of broadcasting rights. In this context it is perhaps no surprise that the strategy makes clear that the Government does not intend to reconsider the list of major sporting events that must be made available free-to-air (the so-called ‘crown jewels’).

In addition, the strategy recognises the concerns that have been raised by some regarding the amounts of money reinvested in grassroots sport when set against the significant increases in revenue from broadcasting rights for some sports competitions.

Against this background, the strategy contains a very welcome recognition of the role played by the Alliance-administered Voluntary Code on the Broadcasting of Major Sporting Events as a mechanism to ensure the widest possible broadcast audience for top-level sports events while at the same time guaranteeing significant reinvestment into the development of grassroots sport.

Signatories to the Code commit to two central principles:

• Accessibility – Ensuring that, where possible, all major events under their control are made available to free-to-air platforms in live, recorded or highlights form and;
• Reinvestment – Ensuring that a minimum of 30% of net broadcasting revenue is reinvested into grassroots development within their sport.

Six major sports governing bodies are full signatories to the Code along with three other rights holders who are signatories to the accessibility principle. Last year, the six full Code signatories reinvested approximately £135m into grassroots sport.

In view of this impact, the Government has made it clear that it expects to see more governing bodies and rights holders sign up to the Code and we look forward to working with the Sports Broadcast Monitoring Committee – which oversees compliance with the Code – to welcoming new signatories.

Importantly, the commitment to the Code is reflected in the series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which will be used to assess how well the sector is achieving particular strategic outputs. In this particular case, the number of sports that meet the Code requirement to reinvest at least 30% of net broadcasting revenue in grassroots will be a specific KPI used to assess the sector’s progress towards becoming more productive, sustainable and responsible.

A further point worthy of note within the strategy is the onus placed on broadcasters themselves – in particular the BBC – to ensure a wide and diverse mix of sports content is made available, including smaller sports and women’s sport. In this context, the Government has committed reflecting the importance of the BBC Sport in making a wide range of sport available to the public in the BBC Charter Review process.


In view of the ongoing scandals within FIFA and the IAAF, it is perhaps no surprise that protecting the integrity of sport and ensuring good governance is embedded across the sector are clear strategic priorities in the document. My colleagues have written a detailed blog on the governance aspects of the strategy which can be found here.

As regards integrity, the strategy contains some welcome proposals including a commitment that the UK Government will sign the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sporting Competitions and that it will undertake a review of the effectiveness of the UK’s existing legislative framework governing match-fixing and sports betting corruption. The latter is a particularly welcome announcement given the difficulties that have been encountered in prosecuting cases of match fixing and associated criminal wrongdoing in the recent past and the Alliance, through its work with the Sports Betting Group, looks forward to engaging in this review.

In addition, the strategy includes a recognition that tackling corruption in sport requires a much more coordinated approach involving not only national governments and international organisations like the UN but also drawing on the expertise of non-governmental organisations such as Transparency International and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). To this end, corruption in sport will form a central part of the Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Summit due to be held in London next year.

As regards anti-doping, the strategy reaffirms the commitments made in the Spending Review to protect UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD) budget in real terms over the life of the existing parliament. In addition, the Government has committed to updating the National Anti-Doping Policy to ensure it aligns with the new 2015 World Anti-Doping Code and to extending the educational remit of UKAD to ensure a consistent clean sport message is delivered at every tier of the sporting pyramid from grassroots and school sport to elite level. Finally – and rather interestingly – the Government has indicated it will work with UKAD to explore opportunities to generate additional commercial income through extending its expertise and influence overseas. Any developments in this area will of course need to mindful of any potential conflicts of interest that may arise.

Major sporting events

The strategy reaffirms the Government’s commitment to the UK as the home of world-class sport and in particular to the continued hosting of major sporting events. The strategy includes a commitment to update the Gold Framework - which sets out the UK’s strategic approach to bidding for and hosting major events – to include lessons learned from the recent Rugby World Cup and the forthcoming Rio Olympics.

In addition the strategy makes explicit reference to a limited list of global ‘Mega-Events’ such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and the Ryder Cup. For these particular events the Government has committed UK Sport to work with the Home Sports Councils to develop a specific strategy designed to support UK hosting bids. It will be interesting to see precisely what this strategy will contain and in particular whether it will include measures on taxation, intellectual property and secondary ticketing, all of which we called for in our Minister’s To-Do List earlier this year.

Finally, in relation to other major events bid for by individual Home Countries, the sports strategy commits Sport England to developing a vehicle for supporting English bids where these are financially viable. This is to ensure that there is, so far as possible, a level playing field in terms of Home Country bidding for major events; currently Events Scotland and Visit Wales support national bids for Scotland and Wales respectively but there is no equivalent scheme for England.

All in all, lots to digest and more detail will no doubt emerge in the coming weeks and months as these policies are developed and refined further.