THE chairman of Henley Royal Regatta says there are no plans to show the event live on television.
Mike Sweeney was responding to a suggestion by BBC sports presenter John Inverdale that the annual five-day event should change its dates to fit in with TV schedules.
The regatta’s finals day usually clashes with the men’s final at Wimbledon, although the All England Club has announced that next year’s championships will take place a week later than normal.
Inverdale told BBC Radio Berkshire on Tuesday: “It [the regatta] is an established and fantastic landmark in the sporting calendar every year.
“I am very aware of the television negotiations that are going on and they are not with the BBC.
“One thing I would say about Henley maybe being on cable television at some point in the future is that I am not sure that monumentally enhances the brand of Henley and the Henley Royal Regatta. What you need is the numbers, the public awareness.”
Inverdale said the regatta had made a “mistake” by not moving its dates to avoid clashing with Wimbledon, adding: “I’m afraid that’s a very unequal battle, a heavyweight going up against a catch weight or equivalent rowing analogy.
“I am afraid that Henley is always going to come off second best but if Henley bit the bullet and moved its timings by a week or so then who’s to say that maybe the BBC or whoever wouldn’t want to broadcast it because it is a phenomenal event and it deserves a higher profile than it gets?”
Mr Sweeney, who will step down as chairman in December after 22 years, told the Henley Standard that there appeared to have been a misunderstanding of a pre-recorded interview he gave to Regatta Radio before this year’s regatta.
He said: “We have looked at broadcasting but there are so many different variations and we always keep looking at it but live television — forget it, totally forget it. We are not tennis, or Wimbledon, or football — forget it.”
Mr Sweeney said the committee of management was considering showing footage of the racing to members in the enclosures and on its website and this might include an hour-length highlights package.
“We have no ambition to go up against anybody,” he says. “This is about the people who come to the regatta and enhancing their experience.”
Last year, Steve Rider told the Henley Standard that he hoped the royal regatta would never be televised.
The former Grandstand presenter, who lives in Hurley, said: “Henley has prospered because it hasn’t been slave to TV and broadcasting and all the rights that are involved.
“It’s regarded as one of the key events in the sporting season but it’s out of mainstream network TV coverage and because of that it has retained a unique character.
“It has also shown that a well-run event with its own traditions and challenges can survive without having to put itself in front of the cameras.”
• Next year’s regatta will take place from July 1 to 5.