Internet rights in their infancy - Michael Atherton

Mike Atherton, the former England captain, has called on cricket's most powerful nations to do more for the wellbeing of the weaker Test teams, including a more even distribution of the game's profits between the sides.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the ESPNcricinfo at 20 event in Brisbane on Tuesday night, where he was joined by former Australia captain Steve Waugh, commentator Jim Maxwell and Cricket New South Wales CEO Andrew Jones, Atherton raised the widening chasm between the richer and poorer countries as a major issue for the future of the sport. He highlighted the IPL as one example of the way teams like New Zealand and West Indies were disadvantaged.

"I think strategically it's the biggest issue that faces the game, really," Atherton said. "You've got four very strong nations [financially] in India, England, Australia and South Africa to a lesser extent, and then a lot of ailing nations. So you're getting a kind of two-tiered system at the moment, and the IPL particularly impacts upon New Zealand and West Indies, who can't quite pay their players the same amount.

"Their players are very interested in going and playing in the IPL, as we would all be. It doubly impacts upon the Caribbean because the whole season for the Caribbean is February, March, April, which is exactly the time for the IPL. It's in the long-term interests of England, India, Australia and South Africa to have eight strong nations rather than four.

"If you only have three or four strong nations, cricket is diminishing all the time and you get what's happening at the moment, with England playing Australia more often and playing India more often, and that fixture list diminishes. You can't call it the world game if only four nations play the gameā€¦ It's in the long-term interests to make sure the other countries are strong."

Andrew Jones, Jim Maxwell, Mark Nicholas, Steve Waugh and Mike Atherton at the ESPNcricinfo summit, Brisbane, November 19, 2013
Mike Atherton: 'If you only have three or four strong nations, cricket is diminishing all the time' © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

While television rights are a major revenue source for the stronger boards and are therefore unlikely to be given up lightly, Atherton believed there was another possibility for a more even spread of profits. He used the example of the way Major League Baseball splits its broadcasting rights between teams, and said cricket might be able to use a similar system for internet rights.

"Internet rights are in their infancy," Atherton said. "What happens in baseball is there's a kind of organisation jointly owned by the clubs, and internet rights are pooled together and then the profits are spread out between all the clubs, the weak clubs and the strong clubs. They're trying to create a level playing field.

"I think something like that has to happen with cricket. You won't get India giving away their television rights, you won't get Australia giving away their television rights, but internet rights are in their infancy and something like that [may work]."

Atherton also countered a suggestion from Waugh that the IPL was good for some of the weaker boards, as it enabled players to earn more of a livelihood and reduced the pressure on the home boards to raise their pay.

"Does it take pressure off their boards or put pressure on their boards?" Atherton said. "We have a Test series in England usually in early May ... it's often a two-Test series against what you might call the less powerful nations, a New Zealand or West Indies at the moment.

"Consequently the players are either not available because they're in the IPL or they're coming back from the IPL the day before a game and therefore under-prepared or badly prepared for Test cricket. It impacts Tests negatively and puts pressure on boards, I would say."

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Posted by Dummy4 on (November 22, 2013, 18:22 GMT)

Once again, Indians are getting touchy about what Atherton is saying. I expected it. Relax, people! Nobody's criticizing India. I think the point is that if things go on the way they are only 3-4 countries will end up playing cricket. I don't think that's good for India in the long run. If we want to save cricket then it's important for all the powerful countries to come together and make sure that the less powerful countries don't fall away.

Posted by Harmon on (November 21, 2013, 9:32 GMT)


Yes it is true my dear. I do not say anything that I can't back.

Pls search for this cricinfo article ------"IPL snub led to BCCI's county refusal"------.

The 1st two paragraphs prove what I say.

You can wait till Joe Root's retirement but you won't find any replies to what I've said.

Posted by Phillip on (November 20, 2013, 11:55 GMT)

Centuries???? thought is was only being played for just over 1 century

Posted by Dummy4 on (November 20, 2013, 11:43 GMT)

The words by Mike is what most of us have been saying all along . The Most powerful cricket nations with the big dollars are calling the shots and undermining the teams that are not in the Top 5 . The West Indies are hardest hit and is being snub for being ruled the cricket world for 15 years . The plan is that this 3rd world team should never rule cricket again. Even when the WI were at the top of world cricket , no decisions were made by them , no cricket gear was made by them , all systems were put in place to make sure WI fell apart . Now WI are the laughing stock of the Cricket world ........SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS.

Posted by Heath on (November 20, 2013, 10:53 GMT)

That's the ICC's job and not the BCCI's to assist other weaker nations.

Posted by Dummy4 on (November 20, 2013, 10:41 GMT)

typical comments. jst coz the shoe is on the other foot now, suddenly everyone has had a change of heart, and wants "wats best for the game"! so hypocritical, that it made me laugh. lets take ather's suggestion then, and ECB will lead the way to show wat great servants of the game they r (ARE, and not WERE - wat great good hv they done in the last century? india has atleast made cricket richer n got t20 on the map through IPL, positively impacting the financial state of many lesser known players). do not take any player from ireland or any of ur neighbouring countries. instead put money into those boards so they become self sufficient. and how abt a full series against them? easy to preach, wen holding a mic, eh?

Posted by Ravi on (November 20, 2013, 10:33 GMT)

Mr Atherton's suggestion, though sounds good to read is not practical in today's free market economy.From the time test cricket was being played,only two countries dominated the cricketing stratosphere.They did precious little for development of cricket in all the other cricket playing countries.Even when WI dominated the cricketing arena,they did not have the economic clout of today's India.The advent of T20 and the introduction of IPL changed the whole scene.Suddenly, players and boards from specially England started to feel left out of the economic windfall that IPL generated.The IPL happened at just the right time for India and for cricketers of other nations.The ECB should feel happy that their cricketers are now getting good money.Asking profits to be shared amongst other boards is not fair to India(who have conceived and executed it well).I however feel that the BCCI can do much more for cricket in the sub-continent,specially for Afghanistan.BCCI do not need to bother about ECB.

Posted by Dummy4 on (November 20, 2013, 10:24 GMT)

What is being proven here is that everyone loves a free lunch. Atherton is no exception :) India too has football and basketball teams which are struggling to do anything meaningful due to lack of funds. Once the decades-old established leagues like EPL and NBA has shared their revenues equally so that the disadvantaged teams get their pie, we can talk about IPL revenues being shared. Fair play, eh?

That something like this is even mulled over is outrageous, but to actually bring it up in an official! It needs an Englishman to experiment such things :)

Posted by Ramesh on (November 20, 2013, 10:20 GMT)

Great Idea. There should be even distribution of wealth. But why only cricket? In all sports the wealthier coiuntries (for example England in football or USA in basketball) should evenly distribute their profits across the world. But then why even stop at sports. I feel all the wealthy countries in the world and the oil rich countries should distribute all their weath evenly to poorer countries in Asia and Africa. Mike Atherton is a visionary and a revolutionary. Hail.