R&A chief warns BBC risk losing The Open
The BBC has been warned by the Royal & Ancient that it risks losing the rights to live coverage of The Open if it does not keep pace with television's technological revolution.
A contract is in place until 2016 but the corporation has reduced its golf coverage recently and it faces fierce competition from the satellite broadcaster Sky.
The Open is on the B List of sporting events which are protected, but only to the extent that highlights must be available free-to-air.
Asked if the R&A was concerned by the BBC's coverage, the governing body's chief executive, Peter Dawson, said: "Certainly. We have had that conversation with the BBC.
"They have to keep up with the advances in technology of broadcasting and they know we have got our eye on that. The BBC have some very talented people in their production team. We want the Open to be seen by as many spectators as we possibly can. Negotiations [on a new television deal] are usually opened 12 to 18 months before. Who knows who will be in the market by then?"
The R&A yesterday announced that a ban on mobile phones for spectators will be lifted for this summer's Open, at Royal Lytham and St Annes. Calls will be allowed in designated areas but photography and video recording will not be permitted.
There have also been a number of changes to the Lytham course since David Duval won there in 2001. All but four holes – the first, ninth, 12th and 15th – have undergone redevelopment with almost 200 yards added to the overall length and a completely new seventh green constructed.