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ITV drops Boat Race as cost of football takes toll

LONDON - The Boat Race, the annual clash between Oxford and Cambridge, is being dropped by ITV as the commercial broadcaster focuses on top-flight football.

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It is understood the broadcaster has reconsidered its commitment to the Boat Race due to the costs of its commitment to football. The 2009 race on March 29 will be the last shown on ITV1.

It has expanded its football coverage beyond the Champions League by taking on England home and away World Cup qualifiers and FA Cup ties.

ITV snatched the rights to the Boat Race from the BBC on a five-year deal running from the 2005 event, after it had been a fixture on the corporation's schedules for 50 years.

The organisers of the race took the decision to switch broadcasters in a bid to leverage the sponsorship and commercial opportunities surrounding the event.

EDF Energy was the first brand to sponsor the broadcast coverage, followed by Lucozade last year.

The Boat Race is one of the most expensive sporting events to cover due to the broadcasting rights and the production expenses, which include numerous camera positions along the Thames River and two helicopters.

Given that the BBC has a lack of big sporting events in its schedules, following the defection of England internationals and the FA Cup to rival broadcasters such as ITV and Setanta, the corporation seems to be the most likely destination for the race.

Earlier this year, the BBC acquired the rights to Formula 1 motor racing on a five-year deal after ITV decided to exit the sport.

Separately, Germany's America's Cup team has become the latest victim of the economic crisis after carmaker Audi withdrew its sponsorship.

The sailing team has become the victim of the company's cutback programme, leaving the team to search for a new sponsor.

It follows Honda's decision last week to exit Formula 1 unless it finds a buyer for its motor racing team in the next three months.

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