As expected it has been announced that the 2017 home Ashes series should only be available on ‘free-to-air’ television and it has already reopened the great TV debate with the ECB already vowing to fight it tooth and nail.
It is a difficult arguement for me. On one hand Sky have backed (and bankrolled) English cricket for years now, they were the first broadcaster to show England’s away tests and have also screened live womens’s cricket and England’s under 19’s matches, giving them all exposure they could never get anywhere else.
The other side of the coin is that the English public have been starved of watching English tests now since the Ashes in 2005, in a sense the euphoria of that summer hasn’t been built on as many new fans from that series were probably lost come the summer of 2006 when all home cricket went to subscription TV.
The ECB will argue strongly against it as you would expect them too, after all the Sky TV money is their main income. They will also argue that the development of grass roots cricket and half of the counties – who apparently need that money to survive – will lose out if Sky lose their monopoly on the exclusive rights.
Personally I think that the counties would survive, they would have years to plan ahead and budget for any changes in income. After all they survived for long enough before Sky came along, I get the feeling they are exaggerating the potential situation somewhat, and who can blame them as no one wants to lose over a million pounds a year.
With the next step being a 12 week consultation period there will be plenty of time for Giles Clarke to get his point of view across and make a strong arguement, there have already been noises coming out from ECB moles suggesting this won’t be taken lightly and there is already a suggestion that this is merely a political manoeuvre by the Government to get one back on Rupert Murdoch for publicly backing the Conservative party through his Sun newspaper for the next general election.
For me, I know that 2017 is a long way off but this issue needs to be sorted and can’t be left. Personally I think that Sky have done a good job and that taking the Ashes off them is the wrong step.
I also think that Giles Clarke reneged on an agreement that some cricket would be left on free-to-air television, I know his arguement will be that the BBC and Channel 4, etc didn’t even bother to bid during the last contract negotiations, but they probably knew they wouldn’t stand a chance and couldn’t justify bidding extortionate amounts of cash for test cricket.
It’s for this reason that I personally think the ECB and Sky are been punished and is why I think they brought some of this on themselves. If they had left an affordable package of some sorts available for free-to-air television, maybe 1 test a year or a couple of ODI’s then this situation probably wouldn’t have arisen.
Ok, it would have diluted the Sky money a bit, but with a section of that cash being made up by terrestrial TV the short coming surely wouldn’t have been that much. With the extra exposure the England team would have been given to the public this would help balance out the cash shortful.
As ever in these situations greed seems to have taken over and ruined things. Giles Clarke went for the big Sky cheque instead of taking less money and a more balanced TV rights package which offered more public exposure which would benefit cricket more in the long run.
Sadly I think this is a problem of the ECB’s own making.