Board again under fire for TV deal August 27, 2005

Channel 4 boss slams ECB's 'huge mistake'

Cricinfo staff

Andy Duncan: 'It's a huge mistake they have made' © Channel 4
The ECB's decision to sell all live cricket to satellite broadcaster BSkyB has again come under attack, this time from Andy Duncan, the chief executive of Channel 4, whose contract to cover cricket end with the Oval Test next month.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International TV festival, Duncan warned that the ECB's decision could lead to a generation missing out. "It was not that damaging for us," he said. "It's hugely damaging for cricket. It's a huge mistake they have made.

"They've gone for the money and will probably spend that on building county clubs or in paying overseas players. They've got more money, but in a next few years' cricket won't be seen."

The ECB maintain that Channel 4 could have bid, but Duncan said that it was not economic for them to try to match other offers. Although viewing figures this summer had hit record levels, he argued this was a one-off and that when BSkyB had a monopoly in 2006 there would be a "huge drop off".

Duncan's comments come hard on the heels of similar remarks from Luke Johnson, Channel 4's chairman. He said: "Our view is that the ECB did a very bad deal for the sport. They didn't handle the negotiations well. They were short-term. They went for the money. We tried to bring it to the attention of the relevant people at the ECB," he continued. "But what happened is that there are certain factions in the ECB and they took charge of the negotiations and they are very commercially minded."

Giles Clarke, the chairman of Somerset and the head of the ECB marketing committee that did the deal, explained that not to have gone with BSkyB would have meant a marked reduction in income for cricket in England. "We would have to tell Duncan Fletcher we are cutting your budget," he said. "Twenty-five per cent of our broadcast income goes to support the England team. What would the media have said then?"