Ofcom has received a request to permit the BBC, ITV and STV to simulcast the FA Cup Final through until the end of the 2024/25 season.
It follows ITV’s success in acquiring rights for the FA Cup from previous rights holder BT Sport. ITV took over at the beginning of the current season, meaning all games are now free-to-air.
The move will turn back the broadcasting clock to the 1970s and 80s, when the FA Cup Final was routinely shown on both BBC and ITV. Like then, each broadcaster will have its own commentary team.
As the FA Cup Final is classed as a ‘listed event’, Ofcom’s consent is required for a broadcaster to provide live television coverage. All listed sports events must be shown free-to-air on a qualifying channel with maximum UK coverage. Ofcom says it is “provisionally minded to approve” the broadcaster’s plans. This is subject to a formal consultation that the regulator is obligated to undertake.
Under the plans submitted to Ofcom, BBC One, ITV and STV will simulcast the final at the end of every season from this year until 2025, when the current broadcast rights expire.
Back in the day…
When the FA Cup Final was last simulcast on BBC and ITV, coverage attracted millions of viewers. For many football fans, it was the sporting highlight of the year. Through the 70s and 80s, both broadcasters often started coverage in the late morning with hours of features and specials leading up to kick-off.
This changed in 1988, when ITV lost coverage. Pay TV had arrived to take away some of the free-to-air coverage, first via BSB, then Sky Sports. In 1997-98, ITV regained live rights, but the BBC was relegated to highlights only. In subsequent years either BBC or ITV have partnered with a pay TV service to provide live coverage.
The extent of this year’s BBC and ITV match day coverage in 2022 – and whether it will match the levels of terrestrial TV coverage last seen in the 1980s – remains to be confirmed.