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Cricket News & Views

ECB predict cricket's apocalypse

ENGLAND'S cricket authorities have told the Government they believe that reserving the Ashes series for terrestrial television would cause a "devastating collapse in the entire fabric of cricket in England and Wales from the playground to the Test match arena". Anyone might wonder after reading those words how cricket survived before Sky Television took the monopoly in 2006.

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And there is more rubble foreseen. The ECB calculate that a "probable" £137.4 million will be wiped off their television revenues for the 2014-2017 period, a drop of 48 per cent. This, they say, would threaten the existence of "many" first class counties and cut investment in the grass-roots sector by half. Another gloomy point is that Test cricket would be ill-equipped to halt the march of Twenty20 cricket and that players could abandon the long form in droves. All the ECB need to do is to announce they would have to cut biscuits from their coffee break budget at Lord's and the horror will be complete.

Interestingly within days of ECB's projection Surrey announced record pre-tax profits of £752,000, a jump by almost a third after strong performances in the previous two years. The county said their turnover increased by £1.5 million to £25.5 million largely due to the twin successes of hosting at the Brit Oval another Ashes-winning Test match and the ICC World Twenty20. They are one of the 'haves' along with Glamorgan, newcomers to the table. Kent, one of the 'have not' counties, announced losses of more than £802,000, despite big increases in match receipts. Essex reported a loss this week of £216,000, despite increased membership and higher Twenty20 attendances.

Television has great significance as terrestrial broadcasters will pay nothing like the amounts that Sky have invested, especially as the BBC have blown their budget on Formula One, locking up well over £200 million for the rights plus a significant wedge of coverage on-cost. In fairness to the ECB, the BBC's absurd policy on sport has taken a bidder out of the market and hit the nation's No 1 summer game. As ECB chairman Giles Clarke has said, who in this country 'plays' Formula One? Cricket is the UK's second-biggest team participant game, after football.

If Sky were to reduce their investment in cricket, it is likely that jobs will be lost at the ECB and elsewhere, including coaching outreach. But while there is so little on terrestrial television, cricket will remain almost a non-sport. Rugby union realised that their sport disappeared off the nation's consciousness after Sky were given exclusive Twickenham rights and all club rugby. The same error of judgment has not been made again.

There is an irritating ploy in the ECB submission against the 'crown jewels' recommendation in the Davies Report. The ECB list all the achievements during the Sky era, including the Ashes success of 2009, strong women's performances, wider grass-roots participation and so on, and it is implied that all this will end if Sky lose their broadcasting monopoly.

So on March 19 2010 the ECB submitted their response to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's consultation document on the review of free-to-air listed events. This followed the report of the Davies advisory panel that the Ashes should be listed for free-to-air television and all other cricket removed from the B list that covers terrestrial highlights.

The ECB said that in recent weeks they had received contact from bodies across the sport, including first class counties, county boards, the Professional Cricketers Association, Minor Counties Cricket Association, Premier League clubs, representatives of women's and disabilities cricket, the Lord's Taverners, Chance to Shine, the governing body of the world game the International Cricket Council as well as other national cricket boards expressing their great concern at the impact listing might have.

The ECB summarised key parts of their submission so that everyone in the game had an "accurate understanding of the findings of the economic impact assessment". The ECB commissioned independent advisors Oliver & Ohlbaum, a sports marketing consultancy, National Economic Research Associates and the accountants Deloitte, who reviewed the impact there would be on cricket's grassroots infrastructure.

What was said to the Government

The ECB said: "The independent economic impact assessment, based on a conservative assessment, demonstrates a probable loss of £137.4 million for the 2014-2017 domestic broadcast contract. This represents a drop of 48 per cent in expected revenues from our domestic broadcast rights for the same period. These figures already take into account any expected revenue 'upside' through listing the home Ashes Test match series, most notably any additional sponsorship income, calculated to be up to £4.8 million.

"The evidence demonstrates starkly that placing the home Ashes Test match series on list A would bring about a devastating collapse in the entire fabric of cricket in England and Wales from the playground to the Test-match arena. The evidence submitted to Department for Culture, Media and Sport sets out how an impact of this magnitude would dramatically reduce investment in cricket's infrastructure leading to less successful England teams (men's, women's and disability), threaten the future of many first class counties and reduce by more than half the ECB's investment into the grassroots of the game. It would also impact on the regeneration we have seen in recent years in links between schools and clubs including those that our 1,330 focus clubs have made with 5,355 schools."

The ECB summary continued: "Cricket in England and Wales has undergone a rapid transformation during the period since the ECB has been able to obtain a true "market rate" for its broadcasting rights resulting in the following positive outcomes:

a) unprecedented progress at the recreational level of the game, with our 39 county cricket boards providing a focal point through which the amateur game can flourish in England and Wales. Externally audited figures show that the ECB spends on enthusing participation and excellence (the category which reflects investment in the women's, disabilities, age-group and recreational game) in 2009 was £19.4 million; 22 per cent of total expenditure across the recreational and professional game.

b) greater financial security for our first class counties through increased central payments, enabling them to provide both a centre of excellence for cricket in their individual region and act as a sporting, social and community hub for cricket. There has also been a transformation in facilities at all of the first class county grounds, with our major Test grounds now investing in facilities that match the very best in other sports.

c) investment into our England (men's, women's and disabilities) teams, including central contracts, sports science and coaching support and the National Cricket Centre, with resultant success including all three teams winning their respective Ashes series last year.

"The ECB has also set out how listing would reverse the progress which the ECB has made in increasing participation as a direct consequence of the extra income generated through our domestic broadcast rights. The latest Active People figures from Sport England (published this month) recorded the highest-ever figure for the number of adults now playing cricket at least once a month, an increase of 12.5 per cent on the figure recorded in 2005. Cricket ranks as the second most popular team sport after football.

"Our focus clubs represent the best indicator to measure the direct impact of investment by the ECB. Recent figures collated by the ECB and verified by independent analysts show that since 2006 the following increases have been recorded by those focus clubs:

71% in participation

26% in club membership

40% in those involved in coaching roles

18% in those involved in volunteer roles

"A specific area where the ECB has made significant progress in the development of the grassroots game is in the women's and girls' game. In 2003, there were only 93 cricket clubs with women's and girls' sections, by 2009 that figure had risen to 505.

"The submission also sets out the advice we have received from sports right experts that listing could be the determining factor in an irreversible demise of Test match cricket and lead to less coverage of county, club and women's cricket as the game faces the challenge of Twenty20 saturation or even a Packer 'mark two'.

"The ECB has been advised that there is a risk that a decision to list the home Ashes Test match series might cause pay-TV broadcasters to walk away from all or some of our broadcast rights. The ecology of the international game of cricket, already under strain as a consequence of the rise to prominence of Twenty20 cricket, and specifically the ability of governing bodies to properly ensure the continued primacy of Test match cricket could also be harmed, probably irreparably.

"The ECB has informed the Government that it is not inconceivable that the funding shortfalls created by listing would precipitate a mass exodus of players from the international game and their contracts with national cricket boards, to play instead in tournaments designed specifically to appeal to pay-TV broadcasters.

"Sky Television, in particular, has also played a key role in promoting domestic (first class county), club and women's cricket through their commitment to showcase coverage of these forms of the game and to introduce popular magazine programmes promoting cricket at all levels. These are not commitments we would expect FTA broadcasters to be willing, nor able, to match should pay-TV broadcasters decide their investment is better made in other sports or cricket products.

"In its submission the ECB has reiterated its proposed innovative and positive solution to DCMS which is to strengthen the B list thus ensuring that highlights are broadcast FTA at family friendly times (between 7.15pm and 8.00pm), and that all Tests, not just the Ashes, are on this list.

"Our approach guarantees that moments of national resonance are broadcast and has the added benefit of ensuring that Test match cricket over four years is available to the widest possible audience whilst protecting the fragile infrastructure of the sport.

"The ECB is encouraged that in recent weeks both Ben Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister for Sport, have said that they attach great importance to assessing the impact the proposals will have on the financial strength of the game. We are confident they will review this evidence carefully and will provide them with any further information they require."

CHARLIE SAYS: My gut feeling is that the Ashes series must go terrestrial. In other words the ECB must divide up one year in four between Sky and terrestrial. Yet the ECB claim revenue would decline by £130-plus million. Figures don't mean much unless the starting point and options are made clear.

Sky offer a special deal with cricket clubs, a very good idea, but due to bundling of other programmes into the subscription Sky Sport costs more than £400 a year for most viewers.

Posted by Charlie Randall
22/03/2010 12:44:36

Obstructive ECB came under fire

THE 'crown jewels' debate seemed to head against the terrestrial lobby in February, and pressure has grown to keep Test cricket off the A list of events reserved for terrestrial television in the public interest. But the pro-listing MCC have already questioned the ECB's gung-ho attitude to this issue, an insight into their strained relationship.

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At a presentation in July 2009 to the panel chaired by David Davies the MCC, always independent of ECB central funding, showed more than a hint of hostility to cricket's governing body in the submission by chief executive Keith Bradshaw and lawyer Peter Leaver.

The MCC reckoned greater flexibility was required by the ECB in reaching broadcasting deals and more research was needed before forming policy. And surprisingly the MCC, self-funding owners of Lord's, disclosed they were prevented by the ECB from holding their own money-making matches. For example, no profit was allowed from the twenty20 match between Middlesex and the 2009 IPL champions Rajasthan Royals, which attracted a 22,000 crowd.

The MCC said to the Davies panel: "The match was broadcast live to India and accidentally so here in the UK because the ECB had not read the paperwork. Such matches are for the good of the game, but generally the ECB’s approach under the Staging Agreement is to make things as hard as possible. Games must be for charity and use ECB approved broadcasters."

Not enough research, the MCC implied, had been done by the ECB into the advantages or otherwise of terrestrial coverage and the effect on youth cricketers. "To understand which business model works best for cricket one would need to undertake a comparative study of Australia – with free-to-air cricket -- and coaching schemes and of England – with no free-to-air cricket -- and coaching."

Other points made by the MCC for the Davies Report included concerns that satellite television was too expensive and that cricket awareness was being damaged.

>Access to Test match cricket on free-to-air television greatly exercised MCC members, who were particularly worried that people – and young people in particular – were missing out because they could not, as opposed to would not, pay for premium sports channels.

>MCC concerns had been confirmed by an e-mail exchange with a cricket coaching school. Because of the way in which cricket is played in schools, youngsters coming to coaching schemes didn’t know that two batsmen played were at the wicket at the same time because they had never seen a real game of cricket.

>The MCC had therefore set up a Working Party to look at the issue. As a result the MCC discussed with the ECB a number of possibilities that would have increased the 27 packages on offer to broadcasters to incorporate a degree of free-to-air coverage of Test match, one-day and T20 cricket. But the ECB still proceeded on the basis of the same 27 packages in selling the rights last time round.

>The MCC stressed it had no animus against Sky, which had done a great job in broadcasting cricket. Its concern was the ECB’s broadcast rights policy and the question of access, and its view was that the ECB had not achieved the right balance between exposure and commercial exploitation.

>The MCC also had concerns about the impact of the way in which the ECB spends its commercial revenue. The MCC, which does not have a county cricket team, does not share in the broadcasting revenues. It therefore has to cover the costs of Lords Test matches from earned income. This means that ticket prices rise and fewer people see cricket either at Lord's itself or on TV.

>The Home Ashes series is always an event of national resonance. Series against South Africa, India and Pakistan are important, but do not have that iconic status.

>The MCC believed that terrestrial broadcasters would still be interested if the price was right, especially as there was a greater number of channels that overcame traditional scheduling difficulties.

>The MCC did not dispute the ECB’s participation figures, but did not think that the growth was down to the ECB alone. The MCC and others did an awful lot to increase children’s participation.

>Highlights appeared not to be an adequate substitute for live coverage. They worked for football, but not for cricket.

>Overall the MCC’s key message was that greater flexibility was needed when the ECB put together broadcast rights packages so that some cricket remained available on free-to-air television.

CHANNEL 4 FELT 'LET DOWN' BY THE ECB

Channel 4 representatives declared themselves in favour of the 'crown jewels' and made the point that it was for the longer-term interest of sport and and was good for viewers too. They broadcast Test cricket for four years to the end of 2005, the renowned Ashes series, but ended their association because the experience had not been financially viable and they could not match Sky on price..

They said: "Securing the rights to England’s home Test matches had been a piece of pure counter-intuitive C4 opportunism. It had never been a commercially driven decision, but it livened up summer schedules.

And in the case of series involving the West Indies, India and Pakistan, C4 would also mesh with a wider multi-cultural offering, which served its wider public service broadcasting remit and brought in new audiences. The juxtaposition of cricket and Big Brother had also been commercially very valuable to C4.

Channel 4 added: "C4 was glad to have done it, and tried to share the 2006-09 rights with Sky, but the ECB went with Sky. C4 did not bid for the current rights. There was no doubt however that cricket was now much less in the public consciousness. C4 felt a little let down by the ECB as it did a lot for cricket. They were not precious about that, but the ECB went for the money because of the need to support a financially ailing county cricket structure.

"Digital switchover might increase the number of qualifying free-to-air channels theoretically able to bid for listed events but they would be small and have small budgets. The greater value was probably in having the additional scope to schedule live events away from the main channels for example, on BBC3 and BBC4."

Posted by Charlie Randall
25/02/2010 14:34:59

Roger Mosey, the BBC cricket villain

A LETTER warning of dire consequences of ending the Sky monpoly of cricket has been circulated to Essex members as part of the general drive by the ECB to stop Test matches being added to the list of broadcasting 'crown jewels'.

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The debate on forcing certain sports events such as The Ashes to be shown on terrestrial television is due to be wound up in March this year. If Test cricket were to be listed, the income from Sky for exclusivity -- about £300 million for four years from 2010 -- will be reduced. Sports governing bodies such as the ECB have to balance income with increased exposure, and it is a tricky task.

The ECB, claiming poverty for several years, have conspicuously failed to achieve a television balance since the first Sky deal in 2006 and have spread a sob story over the media like a thick coating of strawberry jam. Ball sports such as tennis, golf and even rugby union and football know that the BBC offers greater value than can be measured in cash terms. But the real villains are the BBC and their disgraceful attitude to the national summer sport.

Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, said that the BBC again refused to bid for last year's renewal and claimed that there was no feasible way of dividing coverage between terrestrial and satellite. The BBC clearly felt their public service remit did not extend to cricket, having spent a rumoured £200 million on five Formula One seasons from 2009. The public purse is saddled with this deal until 2013.

But the BBC wheel deal is a horror story. That contract money, about £50 million more than paid by ITV for the previous five years, was agreed without any competition from another broadcaster. Without competition... the scenario that is supposed to drag prices lower not higher. And add to those millions the astronomical cost of covering Grand Prix races around the world, and one can see why Roger Mosey has much to answer for. It becomes clear why the BBC have never confirmed their price and why Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One rights holder, was "delighted" with the deal.

Mosey, an Oxford University graduate and Yorkshireman, is BBC director of sport -- soon to take charge of 2012 London Olympics coverage -- and has no real sporting background. No doubt a capable administrator and pleasant person, he has made a massive misjudgment with his spending.

Mosey does not seem to know that thousands and thousands of people play cricket in the fresh air during summer months, and millions are interested in this traditional game -- yes, even 'cool' people. So it is hard to fathom why Formula One, a very expensive international sport with only a handful of driving participants -- even allowing for two successive British champions -- is regarded as public service material often transmitted at strange times of the day from overseas.

Certainly Formula One has mass fascination, the right word. Genuine fans are far less numerous, and the viewing figures for motor racing are far from beguiling. The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in March 2009 attracted a peak 3.7 million breakfast-time viewers at the closing stages. Those figures were very similar to the Boat Race on a Saturday tea-time, a much less costly British sporting event even if many of the student oarsmen were foreigners... Naturally the morning transmission time explains the low Melbourne figure, accentuating the poor value for BBC expenditure.

It is not only cricket lovers who must pay exhorbitant 'bundled' Sky charges to watch their sport or not at all. In football the BBC declined to spend a small sum on the rights for Scotland's European Championship qualifying campaign, which culminated in 2008 with an important match against Italy.

The ECB are trying to make out that a reduction in Sky money will have a catastrophic effect on the game, and they will make sure that the recreational game suffers most, if past history is a guide.

The Essex letter said: "Counties play a vital part in the continued success of cricket in England and Wales, and any financial pressures on this vital pillar in the national summer game would almost certainly lead to a terminal decline in standards and possible decay of cricket in England."

Note the word 'terminal'. Less satellite income might be read to mean the end of cricket, though this is only a "possible" outcome.

Essex continued: "We pride ourselves on our community engagement. We support our thriving sister organisation, the Essex County Cricket Board which is charged with the recreational and developmental aspects of cricket in the county. Our disability cricket programme has been nationally recognised and a robust plan to further develop women's and girls cricket is well advanced, and in partnership with Essex County Council and the DCSF we have a well established Playing for Success Learning Centre on site which provides a vital educational service to local schools and colleges." Threat: The disabled, schools, underprivileged and youths will bear the brunt. The emotional card.

"At Essex we installed floodlights at the Ford County Ground in 2003 - only the second permanent installation at that time. But any future investment is threatened by the recommendations of the flawed findings of the David Davies Advisory Panel report into Free to Air Listed Events." Threat: Future upgrading might be put on hold... or might not.

"The recommendation that live coverage of the Ashes home Test series is protected for free to air broadcasters is not a scenario that anyone wanted - not cricket, nor any of the terrestrial broadcasters. Yet it has become a recommendation, made without consideration to the financial implications, which could damage cricket's delicate eco-system." That is not true. There are many people who would like Ashes to be reserved for terrestrial.

"Without the income levels we receive from ECB then the county staffs, the county investment and in some cases the county existence would be put at risk. There has been much nonsense written about county cricket wages. The average for a county player in the domestic game is less than £47,000 a year - the sort of wage a player would be paid per week at some Premiership soccer clubs. The amount of income spent on players' wages is around 27 per cent which again is not comparable with other sports. The counties are also 18 centres of excellence which offer cricketers the chance to better their careers." The mention of Premier League football is a reminder that football matches are spread around through satellite and terrestrial.

"The potential damage of listing the home Ashes Test series is incredibly serious for the health of our sport. Initial indications by independent rights consultants have suggested a reduction in ECB income of at least £100 million over a four-year period." This can only be a ballpark figure, independent or not, but there will be financial damage. It underlines the failure of the BBC under Roger Mosey.

Posted by Charlie Randall
25/02/2010 13:27:43

ESPN step in with millions

ESPN Star Sport, the Asian broadcasters, have paid more than £570 million for commercial and marketing rights for 10 years for the new Twenty20 Champions League.

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The event begins on Dec 3, with £3.4 million prize money on offer for the eight teams, including Middlesex, though the venue has yet to be decided. The tournament will feature two teams from Australia, India and South Africa, plus England Twenty20 champions Middlesex and Pakistan champions Sialkot.

The Australian, Indian and South African boards will jointly organise the Champions League and plan to expand the field to 12 teams next year. "This makes the Twenty20 Champions League the highest value cricket event on a per game basis," said organisers.

CHARLIE SAYS: The national flavour of the Champions League has a definite attraction, and I wonder if, within a couple of years, the Indian Premier League might seem little more than a gaudy sideshow. I doubt if many cricket followers in the UK and other non-Asian countries cared much about this year's IPL or even knew that Rajasthan Royals, from Jaipur, became champions.

Posted by Charlie
11/09/2008 15:09:07

BBC duck cricket bidding again

MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE ECB

The England and Wales Cricket Board are delighted to announce enhanced deals for its broadcast contracts for the period 2010-2013. Sky Sports have won the rights to domestic and international cricket in England and Wales.

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At the same time Five have agreed a deal for a highlights package to be screened at the popular family friendly time of 7.15-8pm. There will also be, for the first time, Welsh language television coverage of five matches involving Glamorgan on S4C with five matches plus the Welsh Village Cup.

The ECB produced the tender documentation for these rights following detailed consultation with all broadcasters to provide the maximum opportunity for each broadcaster to bid for a variety of packages. It was recognised that some television broadcasters indicated that they did not have the scheduling capacity to bid for all the matches which were on offer. The tender process was therefore deliberately crafted in a non-discriminatory way to allow as many broadcasters as possible to compete for the rights.

The ECB therefore offered 35 packages to the broadcasters, and these included the opportunity to buy individual Tests, series or competitions and contained a mix of live and highlights. Broadcasters were not required to bid for all matches of a particular competition – for example all seven Test matches - but could bid for some, for example one or three Tests. The broadcasters could bid for part or parts of any package.

This process conducted was in compliance of UK and EU law and was made available to all broadcasters. The ECB made itself available to all broadcasters to discuss the ITT and various options on scheduling, price and format. The ECB have been in constant dialogue with broadcasters during the ITT process so as to encourage and welcome bids.

Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, said: "I am delighted that we have reached agreements with Sky Sports and Five which demonstrates their commitment to cricket in England and Wales. We held extensive talks with all broadcasters and were determined to be as flexible as possible in terms of our packaging and scheduling to allow the maximum number of bids for cricket from all areas of the broadcast industry.

"The ECB recognise and are grateful for Sky Sports loyalty to the sport – both at home and when the England team tour overseas. We are also grateful for their investment and commitment to the English Premier League Twenty20 competition, which will begin in June 2010 and was agreed by the ECB Board at their July meeting.

"ECB have also been delighted that Five share our vision of highlights being screened in the early evening slot to allow as many families and young viewers to watch international cricket.

"I am also delighted that S4C will be able to show Glamorgan matches with commentary in the Welsh language and welcome their support for the Welsh Village Cup, which they will also show.

"I would like to thank Clive Leach, David Collier and John Perera for their hard work during the ITT process and for delivering television contracts which will allow the ECB to continue their considerable investment in grassroots cricket."

David Collier, the ECB chief executive, added: "During the last four years the board has been able to make unprecedented investment in cricket at all levels and the added value of the new deal will enable the ECB to continue that policy of investment which will benefit players from the playground to Test arena and spectators alike.

"In this process the ECB took into consideration the Culture, Media and Sport Select committee findings in 2005 and made a concerted and determined effort to ensure that there was an opportunity for all to bid for all or any part of the 35 packages available.

"We had countless meetings with broadcasters, and I am convinced that we now have achieved the best deal available to cricket from those companies who expressed an interest in the rights."

Vic Wakeling, managing director of Sky Sports, said: "In all our discussions with the ECB, we have been pleased to hear their 100 per cent commitment to Test cricket at a time when the game is experiencing so many changes, world-wide. It was also made clear to us, at the outset of talks, that the ECB would encourage competition for individual Test series, or one-off Test matches.

"Sky has ended up with all the Test matches in each year of this new deal and we shall work with the ECB to give Test cricket the support it deserves. We look forward to many more days of the type of tense and fiercely competitive Test cricket we enjoyed at Edgbaston on Saturday.

"There will be new competitions, of course, and we are delighted that they too will be seen live on Sky Sports. We firmly believe, in this country, there is interest and demand among cricket fans of all ages for all forms of the game. We shall continue to offer HD coverage of all games, and to invest in new technology as it is developed.

"I think everyone in the game accepts that there is more experience, quality and variety in our various commentary teams than any broadcaster has ever assembled at any time in the past, and we shall continue to develop programming which, we hope, will appeal to all.

"More and more young people have come to the game - as players and spectators - over the past couple of years, and we shall be working with the ECB to maintain this trend."

Robert Charles, Five’s controller of sport, said: "We are absolutely delighted to have renewed our contract with the ECB for another four years as cricket enters an exciting new era.

"Our commitment to showing exclusive free-to-air highlights of England’s Test matches and one-day internationals in peak-time, together with the high quality of our programmes, produced by Sunset+Vine, has been the key to the success of our coverage. And in Mark Nicholas, Geoffrey Boycott and Simon Hughes, along with Barry Richards this summer, we have a commentary team second to none.

"Test Match cricket has consistently delivered excellent audiences in the 7.15pm slot – men in the ABC1 social economic group as well as a family audience – which has been very well received by advertisers."

He added: "We look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship with the ECB and to a successful period for the England team."

Geraint Rowlands, Sport Content Editor, S4C said: "S4C is delighted at the prospect of showing live cricket in the Welsh language. In showing live and exclusive free to air coverage of five Glamorgan matches, highlights, and extensive coverage of the exciting new Welsh Village Cup competition, S4C will play a key role in the future development of cricket at all levels in Wales."

"Mae S4C yn edrych ymlaen yn eiddgar at ddangos criced byw yn yr iaith Gymraeg. Wrth ddangos pum gêm Morgannwg yn fyw ac yn ecsgliwsif ar deledu rhad ac am ddim, yn ogystal ag uchafbwyntiau o gêmau Morgannwg, a gyda'n darpariaeth gynhwysfawr o gystadleuaeth gyffrous a newydd Cwpan Cymru, bydd S4C yn chwarae rhan allweddol yn natblygiad cri ced ar bob lefel yng Nghymru."

CHARLIE SAYS: Sky Sports have scooped cricket again, this time with £300 million, and there can be no doubt that the BBC have questions to answer as to why they have stood back from the nation's premier summer sport. They failed to bid, so that cricket-lovers have been left with no terrestrial live games for another four years.

Posted by Charlie
05/08/2008 18:00:19

Asia Cup goes audio on internet

A GROUP of four Malaysian cricket enthusiasts have been awarded internet ball-by-ball broadcasting rights for the Asia Cup tournament, starting in Pakistan on June 24, through a relatively new website called hearcricket.com that covered the recent ICC Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia.

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The broadcast is free to internet users. Gopal Sreenevasan, one of the founders, said: "We started this because we love the game. We were thrilled when the Asian Cricket Countil asked us to broadcast their Twenty20 in Kuwait last year. We sent a team of six broadcasters and two technicians there to complete the assignment.

"The broadcast was a resounding success, despite some initial difficulties with connections and wireless facilities. This is how the ICC got wind of us and invited us to become audio broadcast partners of the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in February."

Hearcricket said the response from the Under-19 final, when India beat South Africa was encouraging, claiming an audience of thousands. They will be working with ESPN in the Asia Cup.

Posted by Charlie
09/05/2008 12:30:16

ESPN reach Chinese audience

THE television broadcasters ESPN Star Sports have announced in Singapore that transmission of the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa in September is likely to reach more territories than ever before, including China for the first time.

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Covering television and new media platforms, including internet and mobile, the distribution partnerships will make the tournament available to millions of viewers across the world. For the first time an ICC event will be shown live via television to the Chinese. Late last year ESPN Star Sports’ affiliate, EML, was awarded the global telecast rights by the ICC for all of their events from 2007 to 2015. In addition ESPN recently launched a dedicated 24x7 cricket channel, Star Cricket, reinforcing their position as the leading sports broadcaster in cricket.
 
In the short span of time since acquiring the rights, ESPN and affiliate have already secured global coverage for the tournament, with over 105 countries expected to showcase the tournament. The coverage will be available on ESPN, Star Sports, Star Cricket and their affiliated television channels in various Asian countries including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and China.

In addition, ESPN has secured broadcast partnerships with leading broadcasters across the globe including deals with DirecTV and ATN in North America; Caribbean Media Corporation in the Caribbean; South African Broadcasting Corporation and Super Sports in Africa; Taj TV (TEN Sports) in the Middle East; Sky Television Network in New Zealand; Premier Media Group in Australia and SuperSport in Greece, Cyprus and Mauritius.
 
Jamie Davis, managing director of ESPN, said: “Through our own platforms in Asia and with our partners across the globe, we have been able to set new benchmarks in distribution which will pave the way for a record number of fans to witness the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 action in all its glory.”
 
ESPN is a 50:50 joint venture between two of the world’s leading cable and satellite broadcasters. They combine the strengths and resources of their ultimate parent companies – Walt Disney (ESPN Inc) and News Corporation Limited (Star) – to deliver a diverse array of international and regional sports to viewers via encrypted pay and free-to-air services.
 
ESPN Star Sports showcase an unparalleled variety of premier live sports from around the globe to a cumulative reach of more than 310 million viewers in Asia, 24 hours a day. They have 15 networks covering 24 countries.

Posted by Charlie Randall
17/08/2007 15:57:05

Clarke carries Sky legacy

SKY DEAL WAS CHALLENGED BY MPs in 2005

THE new leader of England cricket will not be known until the end of September after the ridiculous split vote that left the two candidates Michael Soper and Giles Clarke tied for the post of ECB chairman.

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Soper, a past Surrey chairman, seemed to be a sure winner, but he admitted that he had not canvassed support and had been too complacent. Clarke, from Somerset, was a late entrant and stole up on the blind side to take half the votes, clearly not handicapped by his part in the Sky deal.

The ECB announced today that nominations to contest the re-run would close on Sept 3, the ballot of counties and the MCC would close on Sept 24 and the result would be known the following day. Though the cricket world will be underwhelmed by all this, the post is a very important one for England cricket. Lord MacLaurin, the first chairman, raised the profile of the ECB considerably with public pronouncements and the respect he enjoyed in the corridors of power.

The ICC endured a similar delay earlier this year in producing their new president after the unexpected death of Percy Sonn, the South African incumbent. The election of David Morgan as vice-president created the vacancy at Lord’s.

History will judge Clarke’s contribution to England cricket so far. He led the ECB negotiating panel into an exclusive four-year deal with Sky for £220 million, keeping the game off terrestrial television until 2009. This eased funding fears at the ECB, but it certainly slowed the momentum built by the huge public exposure during the 2005 Ashes. The Sky contract was struck before that series, but it was still a bad one and will gobble up the 2009 Ashes. Advertising partners with ECB will not get the exposure that terrestrial television could offer.

The Clarke deal seemed to ignore an assurance given to the Government by previous ECB negotiators, led by the experienced Terry Blake. He argued that a cricket Test series against Australia should not go on the A list as one of the ‘crown jewels’ of sport alongside the Grand National, FA Cup final and so one, reserved for the wider terrestrial audience. This was because the much longer hours cricket offered, though there was the tacit assumption that one Test, at Lord’s, would remain in the terrestrial domain. Though Sky paid a good premium for their exclusive interest, a split agreement should have been achieved, reserving one Test and one domestic one-day competition for, say, the BBC.

The way the ‘crown jewels’ B list trade-off was tipped overboard casts Clarke and the ECB in a bad light. Many MPs were angry at the Sky deal, and the Government might not feel able to trust the ECB again.

In November 2005 a Parliamentary select committee, chaired by John Whittingdale, examined the Sky deal. David Collier, now ECB chief executive but a board director at the time of the contract, was among those questioned. The potential financial losses to cricket were discussed, and the question was asked why England was the only major country to sell everything to satellite television. The MPs wondered if everything possible had been done to avoid an exclusive deal. The questions were stonewalled by Collier and Richard Bevan, of the Professional Cricketers Association, who insisted no other agreement was feasible.

Whittingdale asked: “Can you just say a little more about the consequences had you not gone for the Sky deal? You say that it would have resulted in a fall in income of around £80 million over four years, but what would that have meant for the game? How would you have made the cuts necessary?”

Collier replied: “Cricket is not a wealthy sport. Let us put it into context. Our annual turnover for English cricket is about half the turnover of Manchester United, yet we have got a responsibility for the game throughout England and Wales. We have got fairly scarce resources to be able to invest in the game. A reduction of 40 per cent, so going down from an annual turnover of something like £70 million to below £50 million, would be dramatic.

“Any company that reduces its investment by 40 per cent is bound to suffer as a consequence of that. It would have meant that certainly the whole of our grass roots programmes would have been in severe difficulty. Clearly our National Academy and county academies network could not have been funded to the same level as it is today.”

Adam Price MP presumed that the ECB’s position was that that they did not want cricket restored to A List from B List by the Secretary of State in 2008-09 and he asked if the ECB were not undermining the position of cricket as an important part of British sporting culture.

Collier: “Absolutely not. In fact, just the opposite: we think being on the B list promotes the game and creates investment. Where there is a difference is the 1998 Lord Gordon report, the Independent Advisory Group, hit the nail on the head in that for events such as golf, which we talked about earlier, and cricket, they are played over a much broader period of time. We believe it was an enlightened decision to move Test matches to list B and because of that cricket has flourished.” He cited England’s six consecutive series wins and successes in women’s, age group and disabled cricket.

Price: “Surely there should be at least a kind of crown jewel within cricket that should be available? Why is it that we are told Australia, New Zealand and India have all kept their cricket on free TV? We are told Sky Sports have agreed primary rights to all domestic cricket in New Zealand should be available on free-to-air television. Is it seen as more important in those countries than it is now in England and Wales?”

Collier: “Not at all. Australia is quite an interesting example because obviously there was a major change in Australia when World Series cricket commenced and Channel 9 became a long-term broadcast partner. Channel 9 pay substantively more in rights fees as terrestrial broadcaster than we have enjoyed in this country.

“Every country is different, every country has a different mix. If our income was reduced by £80 million, we do not understand who is going to fund that shortfall. Discussions we have had with DCMS in terms of the amount of funding that is likely to come forward for the sport does not indicate that there is going to be very large sums of money available for public sector support of sport. We have expanded our commercial income hugely.

“We have just launched a very ambitious project called ‘Chance to Shine’ to raise £50 million to bring cricket to, or rejuvenate cricket in, state schools, we are raising £25 million through the Cricket Foundation from private sector funding to be hopefully matched by government and we have currently raised £7 million of that £25 million from the private sector and government has so far committed £2 million through the Football Foundation towards that project and we hope that there will be, and we have had some very good discussions with the Secretary of State regarding, a National Sports Foundation and whether that can help bridge some of the gap in terms of the matched funding from government.

“We still come back to the same basic question: where is the £80 million shortfall going to come from?”

Mike Hall MP: “You have said in evidence that it was a change in circumstances in the marketplace that dictated to the ECB that they needed to do the deal with Sky. Is it not true to say that Sky wanted an exclusive deal with the ECB and that was the end of it?”

Collier: “No, I think the fact was that we would not have gone to the extent of creating 27 different packages with millions of different options within those packages if that were to be the case. Everybody had the opportunity to bid for all or part of the game of cricket. Now, clearly we totally ----

Hall: “Let me stop you there because the deal with Sky was exclusive. You could actually have said, ‘We don't want an exclusive deal with anybody. We want to do a partnership deal with Sky and Channel 4’, for example.

Collier: “The option, as we are all aware, was on the table of a limited partnership, but that was £80 million less. I think the question that we have all got to get back to the heart of is: where would that £80 million come from to enable the game to survive, to continue to flourish, to have its current status? I think that is a key deal.

Hall: “You have put that evidence to the Committee in numerous answers and I think we have grasped the point that you were worried about the £80 million, but in all of this I do not think you have mentioned once the point of view of the actual viewer. What do you say to somebody who cannot afford Sky, but wants to watch cricket live on TV? All you are saying to him is, ‘You're going to get 45 minutes at quarter past seven’.

Richard Bevan: “The earlier point you made about Sky wanting an exclusive deal, I was not party to the package, but I am sure that a lot of broadcasters would have liked an exclusive deal. The bottom line is there were few bidders.”

Hall: “I accept that, but that does not stop the ECB from turning round and trying to negotiate a deal to get more people involved, say, Channel 4.”

Bevan: “I am sure that whatever sport or business, they would be trying hard to negotiate, but at the end of the day if the figures are £80 million less, it would have a critical impact on the running of the business, on the stakeholders in the game of cricket, we would have no investment in the number of counties, the academies would be devastated ---”

Hall: “Well, that is just a repetition of what has been said before and we have grasped that.”

Bevan: “But it is the answer to your question.”

Hall: “I do not think it is the answer to my question.”

Collier: “If I may pick up on the actual point about viewers, the Government has an agenda where we are trying to increase the participation in sport wherever possible, and we have to address issues, such as obesity, we have to address community issues and that is where sport can play a major role. We cannot increase participation levels without facilities, without coaches and without volunteers and we have to invest in those areas.”

Hall: “I actually think you have ploughed that furrow so often at this meeting that we understand that. I am not disputing the fact that the ECB wants to increase the participation and if you had a reduction in your revenue, that would not be effective. I think that is a given, we accept that. What I am saying is that you could have actually done a deal which would have brought in the money without you actually having to have an exclusive deal with Sky.”

Collier: “Well, the fact is that there were not the bids there. The fact is, as Richard said, the agreements were not there or the offers were not there, so it was very, very clear -- very, very clear -- to us that that could not have been achieved. The only option to achieve that balance was an £80 million reduction, and I know we keep on coming back to that, but that is the stark truth of it.”

Tim Yeo MP: “A significant amount of the money then goes to prop up the county structure, does it not?”

Collier: “I would not say ‘prop up the county structure’. The county structure has an investment in it undoubtedly, but that invests in not only players, but the counties invest in their own grassroots development in each of those counties and they provide the opportunities for the spectators to watch county cricket. One of the things we should be very proud of in cricket is that senior citizens and juniors can watch county cricket for less than 40p per day, and I think 40p per day ---”

Yeo: “For those who do, it is very good value, but go to a county match and you do not see a lot of people even at 40p. The truth is that quite a lot of counties are now completely independent on the income from broadcasting and they would not survive in their present form. That seems to me essentially unhealthy and they have become sort of addicted to the broadcasting income. It is also the case, is it not, that the counties have quite a strong representation on the ECB?”

Collier: “I think that one of the things we have to do is we have to create a development area for future England players. Now, we have heard that 8 per cent comes from broadcasting and a lot of that, as I am sure Richard will testify to, comes from the success of the England team.

“The counties are our delivery structure together of the next level of players and one of the things we have been very successful at in recent years is starting to develop a conveyer belt of players coming through. I think we are seeing it today in Lahore, with Liam Plunkett making his debut for England, another of the youngsters coming through that county system and playing international cricket.

“I also believe that it is very important to the marketing of our Test match games, that people are introduced to cricket and then go on. I think though we can be slightly jovial about the county cricket board system in maybe some of the championship matches, but the honest answer is that for the Twenty20 game this year, the crowds were up another 70 per cent. We have created a whole new audience of families and children and they are watching county cricket.”

Posted by Charlie Randall
16/08/2007 15:21:51

Tony Bastable dies at 62

THE cricket-loving television presenter Tony Bastable has died in Redhill, Surrey, at the age of 62. He made his name with Magpie , the children’s programme set up by ITV to compete with Blue Peter , but he continued to play cricket as a wicketkeeper as much as he could before taking up umpiring.
Bastable founded the wandering Magpies CC and later worked tirelessly for the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers before setting up the breakaway Institute of Cricket Umpires and Scorers – a more streamlined organisation -- just before he died of lung disease. He took much criticism from fellow umpires, who felt he was undermining ACUS, but he fervently believed that an institute, rather than association, was the best way in a changing financial world and he went ahead planning a well-accredited training programme. His view was that there was room for both organisations, and he certainly subscribed to the general view that absorption by the ECB would be bad for umpires and scorers.
Moray Robertson, of the Association, said yesterday: “Tony had a terrific wit and a great brain who made many friends among umpires. He was a genuine enthusiast.”
His funeral is to take place on Friday, June 8, 10am at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Lingfield, where he lived.
Posted by Charlie Randall
30/05/2007 18:54:08

ECB allow dubious TV gimmick

THE decision by the ECB to push television umpiring further this summer should introduce a new dimension to one-day cricket. Umpires will have their wisdom questioned like never before during the Friends Provident Trophy one-day competition.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

In the 10 games televised by Sky – four South group, three North, two semi-finals and the final – the batsmen or the fielding captain will be allowed to refer umpiring decisions to video replay for the satisfaction of seeing justice done. It is hardly in the spirit of cricket, but the county circuit will no doubt accept this as a gimmick and some fun with verbal ping-pong.

The ICC are keeping a close eye on the experiment – the ECB concede that experiment is all it can be – and are to discuss progress during the general meeting at Lord’s in June. Perhaps video justice beyond mere line calls, as now, will be meted out in the next World Cup.

Appeals to the higher house are limited to two rejections per side per innings. Otherwise there is no limit. Leg before wicket comes under scrutiny, though Hawk-Eye is unlikely to be available until the final at Lord’s on Aug 18. The ECB conceded today that Law 23.3 on dead ball following dismissal (or not) will have to be suspended in this competition.

The launch of the Trophy, with new sponsors Friends Provident, coincided with lovely spring sunshine bathing the Nursery Ground at Lord’s, where Middlesex and MCC Young Cricketers were training. A large number of county players, including Darren Gough, the new Yorkshire captain, made appearances. One slight jarring note was that the giant cut-out cricketer on display happened to be Rana Naved, Sussex’s Pakistan overseas seam-bowler who has had a lean time with the ball recently. There must have been a more interesting choice somewhere, such as James Kirtley, Sussex’s match-winner in last year’s final.

CHARLIE SAYS: Leg before wicket might be the main focus, and there could be tactics involved as the fielding side try desperately to remove the most dangerous opposing batsmen. Bat-pad decisions, either way, are rare in one-day cricket, as are nicks on to the pad for wrong lbw verdicts. With snicks hard to confirm on video, the bowlers might see lbw as the best route.
The ECB admitted that instructions from team members watching the game from pavilion could be discouraged but not eradicated. Appeals to video have to be prompt.
This experiment is sheer gimmickry capable of humiliating umpires. Why not introduce further levels of ‘interest’? Perhaps the fielding side could be allowed to ‘execute’ one opposing batsman – rule him as ‘out’ whenever they choose. The timing of that power might be quite tricky and reduce predictability.
Another suggestion has been to allow a member of the batting side to roam in the field, getting in the way of the fielding side – leaving the bowler alone in case of injury -- to assist the batsmen. How could he be best utilised? Interesting.

Posted by Charlie Randall
10/04/2007 20:56:06
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