Frustration is mounting here at the AIG Women’s Open at the BBC screening its highlights program in an even later slot, despite the outcry over its “graveyard shift” broadcast times of the last two years.
Georgia Hall, Tommy Fleetwood and Kate Rose spoke to Telegraph Sport about their “disappointment” with the BBC on an enthralling first day as Muirfield – once regarded as the last bastion of male chauvinism – hosted its first female major.
Anyone wanting to see the hour-long wrap up would have been waiting until 11.05pm and 11.45pm on Sunday night, as each show runs past the midnight barrier. The BBC will eventually televise the winning putt and trophy celebration at 12.45am, heading into the early hours of Monday morning
In 2020 and 2021, the BBC buckled under pressure to put the highlights on the red button and iPlayer at 8pm in 2020 and 2021, but this year that service is not on until 10.30pm. “It is a shame and we’ve had this before. I remember Troon [in 2020] and hoped they would fix after that reaction,” Hall, the 2018 champion, said after her one-under 70 left her five off the lead of another former winner in Hinako Shibuno.
“We want it to be on earlier so more people can and will watch. You can’t expect people to be staying up past midnight, especially the kids and that is who we are trying to inspire aren’t we?
“After what the Lionnessess did on Sunday women’s sport is on the up – the BBC got 17m or something for the final – and this is disappointing. All we can do is try to play as well as we can and hope that people tune in, if they haven’t got Sky. But no, it doesn’t help that it’s on even later than before.”
The BBC points out that the action from this revered East Lothian links must fit in with the Commonwealth Games, but the palpable sense here is that with the corporation women’s golf always plays second fiddle. Two years ago, it was originally demoted on the schedule for the World Seniors Snooker Championship.
Fleetwood feels for his fellow pros. “I was surprised and a bit disappointed when I looked this morning and saw the Women’s Open highlights weren’t on until after 11pm,” he said.
“Sky is great but not everyone has a subscription and this should be great exposure for the women golfers playing on one of the best links. It doesn’t seem fair, really. What’s the point of the BBC owning the highlights rights and then burying the coverage. Don’t get it. You’d think they would read the room better after the women have just won the Euros.”
The BBC surrendered the live coverage of the Women’s Open to Sky in 2017, as the corporation’s live golf output crumbled from more than 40 days at the turn of the century to none this year. BBC TV’s indifference to golf seems across the board, although the attitude seems more skewed against the females, despite holding equal highlights rights for both the British majors.
Last month’s Open Championship highlights were on at 9pm in the first three rounds and on at 8.15pm for the final round. The BBC sent a full commentary team to St Andrews (including Andrew Cotter on commentary) but they are taking the world feed here.
Kate Rose declared in a Telegraph Sport column 12 months ago: “I’m completely baffled why there appears to be a black mark against women’s golf at BBC HQ.” And it was hard to disagree and easy to understand when she wrote, “you cannot find a sport that’s going to demonstrate the BBC’s avowed commitment to equality and inclusivity more clearly than golf”.
This leaderboard is a case in point. Shibuno, the 2019 champion who is nicknamed “Smiling Cinderella”, is a 23-year-old from Okayama, Jess Korda – the nearest pursuer one-behind after a 66 – is a 29-year-old from Florida, via Prague, and Louise Duncan is a 21-year-old from West Kilbride, on four-under alongside Gaby Lopez, a 28-year-old from Mexico City.
Little wonder, therefore, that Rose is even more bemused by the elevation of this snub. “It’s sad to see that the BBC are putting the highlights even later than last year, meaning that young girls and boys won’t be staying up that late to watch it,” she said.
Rose has emerged as an unofficial spokeswoman for the female game in Britain after she and husband Justin – the former world No 1 – formed the Rose Ladies Series during the pandemic to give the inactive pros the chance to play competitively.
The series has grown to the extent that next month’s LET Access Tour will feature the Rose Ladies Open at Brocket Hall. “Sky will be televising the Rose Ladies Open and have been great partners for us in showing the RLS,” she said. “Sky are great for the women’s game.”
The BBC read so. Duncan’s display in her first major as a pro – she joined the paid ranks just two weeks ago – certainly warranted a prime-time spot. Last year at Carnoustie, while a student at Stirling University, she stunned the game by lying only two shots off the lead going into the final round of the Women’s Open.
Duncan finished 10th and after struggling for the last few months, re-emphasized her love of the links by teeing off in the first group alongside fellow Scot Catriona Matthew and conjuring a round containing an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys.