England news April 15, 2013

ECB out to 'own the summer'


The ECB has unveiled a raft of measures it hopes will capitalise on a golden summer in which England hosts both the Champions Trophy and an Ashes series and inspire more people than ever before to play and watch the game.

They are also mindful that, for once, there are relatively few high-profile rival sporting events - such as the Olympics or a major international football tournament. As Steve Elworthy, managing director of global events and marketing, put it, "We want cricket to own this summer."

Ashes tickets are selling as well as anticipated - 95% of tickets have sold for the first four days of all Ashes Tests, with some grounds having sold out of fifth-day tickets - though the Leeds Test against New Zealand was described as "needing some support." The Champions Trophy is also meeting expectations, with anticipation at Edgbaston and The Oval particularly high.

The initiative will include free tickets for -16s at 40 Yorkshire Bank 40 matches in August (a maximum of four U-16s will be permitted per paying adult) and free on-line highlights of every YB40, County Championship and home international match. The ECB are also investigating the possibility of live-streaming the women's Ashes Test.

To encourage more people to play the game, the ECB will launch 'The Ashes School Challenge', a scheme which will offer free teaching and learning resources to primary schools using cricket to educate nine to 11-year-olds in the Key Stage 2 curriculum across all subjects. The ECB is also hoping to expand the 'Last Man Stands' format - an eight-a-side format lasting two-hours per game - which is designed to appeal to 'lapsed' cricketers who may not have the time or fitness to continue to play club cricket.

As for the thorny topic of the absence of international games on free-to-view television, the ECB will offer cricket clubs around the country incentives to allow members and non-members the opportunity to watch games for free. Competitions will offer chances to watch the Ashes in Australia and for a team to play at an international venue.

While the overall financial value of an Ashes series is now worth far less than a series against India - the value of overseas broadcast rights means the India series is estimated as at least 30% more lucrative - the power of the Ashes brand in England and Wales remains vast and the ECB hope that can utilise the profile of it to create a legacy to see the game through less obviously commercial seasons.

While the next three years offer a raft of high-profile Test series (Australia are the principle tourists in 2013 and 2015, with India playing a five-Test series in 2014), there is some concern about the commercial value a few of the years immediately following that. Tickets for series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the tourists in 2016, have not always sold well.

"Not every summer can be iconic," Gordon Hollins, Managing Director of Professional Cricket at the ECB said. "But three years is a long time and we hope the plans we put in place now will help us if there are tougher years ahead."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 17, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Of course most of us would rather have cricket on Terrestrial tv. However, the money coming in from sky helps keep the counties afloat and in some respect can be attributed to the improvement of the national side. Yes, the England team was improving under Nasser during the C4 days however since Sky money has come in, there has been a marked improvement in England's quality over all three formats. This can't be denied.

    I'd rather have free to air coverage esp as I loved Richie Benaud however this is a sad reality of modern day sport.

  • Michael on April 16, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    @JG2704-I think they give refunds for days lost up to 25 overs which is the cut off point. If they began to sell tickets for some Tests at a lower rate of course I think people who already had them should get a part refund. Factor in travel and snacks etc a day at the Test is quite pricey. Though they might claim it was too complex. the officials get through Duckworth Lewis calculations so they ought to be able to manage partial refunds. In any case ECB will never be poor.

  • Dummy4 on April 16, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    @gbqdgj You are out of your mind, and not just because you think Ravi Shastri is a good commentator.

    Channel 4's coverage (by production company Sunset + Vine) of home tests in the late 1990s and early to mid-2000s set the standard that current BSkyB coverage admirably aspires to continue. It was fresh and innovative in reaction to the overly reverential rut into which BBC coverage had fallen, most notably with its co-invention of the Hawk-Eye system (look how influential that alone has been).

    It had the best young commentators with Richie Benaud anchoring as only he can. It increased the analytical focus of cricket coverage, unafraid to explore technical details and trusting that viewers would be interested. It influenced the building of the foundations that have helped to strengthen the England team, directly coinciding with the Fletcher-Hussain era.

    And most importantly, it helped increase national enthusiasm for the game, culminating in the wonderful 2005 Ashes. Case rested.

  • John on April 16, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    @Meety on (April 16, 2013, 0:33 GMT) - Yeah you could be right. As I mentioned before , I'm a big boxing fan and I suppose while Sky would pay more for a live show / contract with the promoters , I guess it could affect live gates. UK currently has 3 world champions and I bet there are very few casual sport fans who could name more than 1 of them - if they could name the 1. Boxing has become worse re Sky because a subscription only channel was set up and Sky's coverage was since greatly reduced. Then Sky did a policy of no more PPV fights which at least was something but truth be told they didn't really have any worth PPV. Now they have a big fight and guess what - it's PPV which is decent enough to PPV but it should be free to compensate for lack of coverage on the sport What I miss is talking to the common man about such sports. I'm not sure what the difference is between what Sky pay and what others may offer

  • John on April 16, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    @maximum6 on (April 15, 2013, 23:33 GMT) Yeah , I can see your points. In such situations would the customer who bought the tickets at the higher price be entitled to the part refund? Also could you or anyone else tell me what happens if a ticket is bought for a day which is rained off and if so is there a point where if the weather interrupts a day by sufficient amounts where you are entitled to a refund?

    @gbqdgj on (April 16, 2013, 9:42 GMT) Excellent points , well made.

  • Adam on April 16, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Just for elucidation: according to wikipedia, 3% of UK households have Sky Sports.

  • Matt on April 16, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    The sad fact is that even if the BBC or worse still Channel 4, showed the cricket, their coverage was shown as being intrinsically weak when Sky showed how it could and should be done. Sky put cricket in a far more positive light and if anyone disputes that just look at how much better their broadcasts were for the NZ-England series which was supposedly lower profile than the awful BCCI coverage during the India England game. This is not a reflection on the host commentators that I listened to instead of the Sky ones who weren't able to be at the ground (I actually think that Ravi Shastri is one of the finest commentators in the world) but more on the poor camera work, lack of innovation and so on. Frankly Channel 4's experiment some years ago was so far inferior to even the recent BCCI coverage that it is no wonder that the ECB didn't want to continue with them even without the issue of cash.

  • Andrew on April 16, 2013, 0:33 GMT

    @JG2704 on (April 15, 2013, 19:44 GMT) - hopefully the money the ECB receives from broadcast rights to Pay TV is well spent. I would say there is enuff evidence to suggest that sports without any real Freeview presence really struggle to maintain their foothold. Cricket at least has a strong print & internet presence, but I can't help think about how Rugby in Oz went down the "Super" path & Pay TV, yet League & Rules dominate discussions as they are on Free TV. Won't matter in the short term, but I think it could make it hard to reach the next generation without Free TV coverage.

  • Alick on April 16, 2013, 0:10 GMT

    The BBC made ikt clear a few years ago taht it was not willing to waste money on a bid it could not win. Sky were/are always going to trump the terrestrial channels and the BBC managers aren't that daft.

    Despite the ECB's moaning that they felt that BBC had a duty to bid for live cricket they also made it clear that the Beeb along with just about anyone else doesn't have a snowball's chance of winning international cricket back off Sky. So why waste time and a good deal of the licence fee bothering with a no hoper.

    Besides Sky Sports is far more widely available than the doom and gloom merchants would have you believe. From living rooms and computers to pubs and clubs the sound of bat on all will still be the sound of this summer.

  • Dummy4 on April 15, 2013, 23:49 GMT

    I captain an 8 a side, Last Man Stands team here in Australia. It's a good format which, with a few tweaks, could be a successful one. It is, of course, a nightmare for captains and bowlers as with just 6 fielders to protect all the key areas (bye bye slips!), it is incredibly difficult to set aggressive fields to keep the runs down. It is a good way, though, for washed up cricketers to continue to have a run as well as those of us who aren't quite as good as others to be able to improve our skills. I'm all for it, but I think it needs a few tweaks.