Collier holds talks with BBC
The dust may barely have settled on the ECB's new TV rights contract with Sky Sports, but already it seems they are trying to encourage the BBC to bid for the next cricket deal, which would begin in 2010. The news came to light through a leak to The Daily Telegraph, which said that David Collier, the new ECB chief executive, held talks with Peter Salmon, the BBC director of sport on Tuesday.
The leak came from the Save Cricket group, which has been set up by Norton Cricket Club from Teesside to campaign against the new deal. The group are planning to wear black armbands during Test matches this summer to protest at the ECB's deal to give live coverage of all home Tests to Sky from 2006.
Rhys Jenkins, the organiser of Save Cricket told The Daily Telegraph: "The ECB are starting to realise just how annoyed people are and they're feeling guilty about their deal with Sky. It's obvious that they're worried about their exclusive deal with satellite television. They're already looking at the next deal and trying to get the BBC interested." However, the ECB said that the meeting between Collier and Salmon was "routine" while the BBC failed to comment, but it is believed that it is too early for them to be making decisions for as far ahead as 2010.
This summer's Ashes series will be Channel 4's last cricket - they have held the rights to home Test matches, although one has been shown live on Sky each summer, and later rounds of the C&G Trophy since 1999, when they beat off the BBC. The only cricket on terrestrial TV will be Channel 5's 45-minute highlights package. Four's coverage, which introduced the viewers to gadgetry like Hawkeye and the Snickometer, has won a number of awards but began to attract some criticism when it started to shunt around the timing of their highlights programme - often not shown until the early hours of the following morning. Frequent breaks for horse racing, especially over weekends, was another issue and they brought the start time of Tests forward to 10.30 so that coverage did not extend too far into the early-evening peak viewing hours.
But the fear is, now that the ECB have put all their eggs in one basket (admittedly a very lucrative one) there will be very little competition from other broadcasters when the contracts are next up for renewal. The new deal is worth £220million, with money promised for grassroots funding, but next time around, without rival broadcasters bidding, Sky could get a cut price deal that would leave the game dangerously short of funding.
The ECB told Cricinfo that it has regular meetings with all its broadcasting partners and would soon be talking with Channel 4 and Sky but maybe the ECB are already starting to sweat?