The FA Cup is returning to the BBC after a seven year hiatus.
The Corporation will share the rights to show the world’s oldest knockout football tournament with BT in a new contract which runs for four years from 2014/15.
Currently ITV shares the rights with BT after the telecoms giant bought out the remainder of the package from ESPN. This means that the forthcoming 2013/14 tournament will be shared between ITV and BT Sport.
But after that it will be back on the BBC in coverage likely to be anchored by Gary Lineker.
Welcoming the deal BBC director general Tony Hall said: “When you poll licence fee payers they say they want the big events to be on the BBC. The FA Cup is one of those big national moments. Working closely with the FA I believe we will change the way we view the FA Cup forever.”
The news will also send a shiver down the spine of Sky executives already nervous about BT’s foray into the TV rights marketplace.
BT Sport’s current deal will see it feature 38 live Premier League games each year for the next three seasons, including 18 ‘first pick’ matches. There will also be live games from other leagues around the world – including Germany, France, Italy and Brazil – as well as FA Cup ties, the UEFA Europa League and Scottish Premier League.
The service will be available for free to all BT Broadband subscribers.
Sky has 116 games a season over the same period but is said to be nervous about the threat of BT which has promised to “give football back to the nation”.
Gary Lineker, the BBC football presenter said today: “The BBC has consistently shown what it can do for sport over a long period of time. The Open, Wimbledon, World Cups, European Championships. We’ll do this competition justice.”
The terms of the deal, announced at lunchtime today, also sees ITV retain the rights to England football team’s home matches. ITV will cover England’s competitive home internationals live until 2018 earlier this year.