LONDON, May 14 (Reuters) - Britain’s leading free-to-air broadcasters expressed reservations on Thursday about the sporting merits and future prospects of next month’s inaugural European Games in Baku.
Europe’s first continental multi-sport event will be hosted in the Azeri capital from June 12-28 and televised in Britain on BT Sport.
More than 20 sports, 11 of them offering direct or indirect qualification for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, will be represented but top swimmers and track athletes will be absent.
Speaking at a Daily Telegraph Business of Sport conference, BBC director of sport Barbara Slater sounded unconvinced about the event’s appeal to viewers in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Several federations are planning their own European sports championships for 2018, a year before the second edition of the European Games.
“The ‘A list’ athletics championships and a host of other European championships will be held to try and create something which I suppose is bigger than the sum of its parts, which is very much what is the motivation behind Baku,” said Slater.
“So I think it’s going to be really interesting comparing those two.”
Athletics will be represented in Baku only with a third-tier event, while swimming will be equally low key, and Slater said that made the Games a less attractive property.
“We were not convinced about the quality of some of the individual events and we have a finite resource. And actually we invest in European championships,” she said.
“We invest in the European athletics championships, the European basketball championships, the European swimming championships...so we were going to take away from some of our existing relationships to invest in that.”
Niall Sloane, director of sport at commercial rivals ITV, said the Games were of little interest to him.
“We understood the progression from this year to the second event and how they would build on it but it still didn’t make any financial sense,” he said.
However John Petter, chief executive of BT’s consumer division, said they made sense to a company spending heavily on Premier League soccer and with a growing appetite for other sports.
“We’re turning over perceptions that people have of premium sport being football-obsessed,” he said. “We are a new broadcaster and prepared to not just buy established properties but to build properties over time.”
Games organisers plan to beam an average of five hours of television per day, including ceremonies and highlights, across all Olympic continental bases. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)