TV rights saga September 5, 2005

Jowell hints Tests could return to terrestrial

Cricinfo staff

David Morgan: renewed criticism for ECB's deal with Sky © Getty Images

Test cricket in England could be reserved for terrestrial TV in 2009 following a new outcry about Sky winning the rights. Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has hinted that Test cricket could be brought back to the roster of "crown jewel"sports, events such as Wimbledon which are listed to ensure that the cream of British sport is kept on terrestrial.

The ECB sparked outrage back last December when they gave Sky a four-year deal to broadcast Test cricket. But with the nation's interest in cricket higher than it has been in years - and Channel 4's viewing figures hovering around eight million - the spotlight has returned to the deal with the satellite provider.

After the last Ashes Test this week which will be shown on Channel 4, Sky will broadcast all Tests until 2009, with Channel 5 showing a highlights package. The ECB has argued that the £220million deal with Sky will assist cricket at grassroots level, but detractors have said that cricket needs exposure to an wide audience as possible. Lord MacLaurin has called for government intervention to keep Tests on terrestrial.

"The government could intervene," wrote MacLaurin in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, "there is no doubt about that. I think the new deal is wrong for cricket and there are millions who share my view."

But Jowell was adamant that the current deal cannot be revoked, while she hinted that Test cricket could be added to the "crown jewels" roster. "Listed events can be reviewed," Jowell explained on BBC News 24 programme. "There is always the possibility of a review not just in relation to cricket, but in relation to other listed events."

David Morgan, the Chairman of the ECB, says he is confident the deal with Sky is the correct one. "There's a lot of concern among the cricket-loving public," he acknowledged, "but this deal is very good for cricket. The next best deal would have been £24million a year less and it would have meant massive cuts."

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the ECB, David Collier, has been urged to learn from rugby's mistakes and implement a plan to capitalise on cricket's current popularity. Wasps rugby club chief executive, David Davies, says much of the momentum generated through England's World Cup success was lost as rugby chiefs failed to put strategies in place early enough.

England's rugby board spent "a year parading the trophy before planning what to do next," Davies, a keen cricket fan, told the London-based Metro newspaper. "They need to do what we should have done and put a plan in place. It's a challenge for David Collier and the ECB."