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European Tour & Ryder Cup sue Sky over coverage

Europe's PGA Tour and Ryder Cup organisers said on Wednesday they had started legal proceedings against Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB pay television company over broadcasting plans for the golf tournament.

BSkyb, locked in a battle with British pay-TV company ONdigital, intend to broadcast the Cup on their Sky Box Office channel -- usually pay-pre-view but in this case freely available to subscribers -- rather than Sky Sports 1.

That move prevents subscribers to ONDigital from having access to the tournament between the U.S. and Europe in Brookline, Massachusetts, on September 24-26 as they receive the Sky Sports 1 channel but not Sky Box Office.

"It would appear that Sky's principal reason for wishing to omit the Ryder Cup from the Sky Sports channels is to avoid the possibility of its competitor ONDigital having the right to show the matches," said Ryder Cup spokesman Mitchell Platts.

"We do not believe the Ryder Cup should be used as a pawn in this dispute."

ONDigital, owned by Carlton Communications Plc and Granada Group Plc , has been pushing BSkyB to provide its Sky Sports 2 channel for its 30-channel digital service.

At the same time, Britain's ITV network -- dominated by ONDigital's owners -- has withheld its Channel Three from BSkyB's 140-channel SkyDigital service.

That decision means SkyDigital cannot offer ITV's live broadcasts of UEFA Champions League soccer.

Mitchells said European Golf, including the Ryder Cup, had been shown on Sky Sports for the last seven years and the broadcaster had a contractual obligation to continue that.

"We adamantly believe that this late change of channel has created confusion which will be exacerbated if the Ryder Cup is not reinstated on Sky Sports and thereby alienate sections of the viewing public and our sponsors," he added.

BSkyB said in a statement that they were "bemused and flabbergasted" by the Ryder Cup objections.

"The result of our decision is that millions more people will be able to see the Ryder Cup than if it were shown on Sky Sports One," the statement said.

It said the Ryder Cup cover would be available to all subsribers at no extra cost and to all cable companies.

"That means that around eight million homes will have access to our live coverage, compared to around four million who have access to Sky Sports. The total number of ONDigital subscribers who have Sky Sports 1 is thought to be only around 80,000."