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Tories could give Sky the Ashes back

Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said yesterday that a Tory government could overturn Labour&rsquo;s decision to return a host of sporting events to free-to-air channels.<br /><br />Last week, a government-appointed panel &ndash; led by former Football Association chief executive David Davies &ndash; recommended that the Ashes cricket, international football World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches, Wimbledon tennis, the Open golf, the Rugby World Cup and rugby union internationals in Wales be added to the list of &ldquo;crown jewels&rdquo;, or events protected for live broadcast on free to air (FTA) television.<br /><br />The proposals, which will now enter a three-month period on consultation, have met with an angry backlash from sporting bodies, which stand to lose millions if only FTA broadcasters can bid for the rights to show their sports. The move would also release Sky&rsquo;s stranglehold on premium sporting events such as The <br />Ashes.<br /><br />Hunt said in a television interview that the Tories would look at the evidence brought forward, but that it would &ldquo;absolutely&rdquo; be prepared to overturn Labour&rsquo;s decision should it disagree with it.<br /><br />Last week, Davies defended the plan, saying it &ldquo;unashamedly&nbsp; puts the viewing public first.&rdquo; However sporting bodies have argued that English sport would suffer as a result of only the BBC, Channel 4 and Five being allowed to bid for rights.<br /><br />The England and Wales Cricket Board said that the money allows it to reinvest in community projects to grow the game at county level. <br />