TV rights saga September 22, 2005

Lord MacLaurin reignites TV rights debate

Cricinfo staff

Lord MacLaurin has reopened the TV rights debate by saying the ECB was right to hand Sky the contract for showing England's home Tests - and he says that cricket should stay off the list of "crown jewels", too. In a letter to The Times, MacLaurin, the former chairman of the ECB, writes that "Sky made a very substantial bid [£220million] which was far and away the best financial deal for cricket. The ECB had no option but to accept it.

"To put Test cricket back on the "A" list would be a financial disaster for the game. All cricket followers are thrilled with out "joint Ashes" win. But we need money to keep up the momentum."

England's recent Ashes triumph prompted a debate in the media regarding TV rights, with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, coming under increasing pressure to try to reinstate cricket on the list of "crown jewels" covered by terrestrial TV. She has now hinted that this may take place in 2008 or 2009 when the list will be reviewed.

But MacLaurin says that the ECB were right to negotiate for the home Tests to be removed from category A status (terrestrial only) to category B, as the increase in revenue from a satellite provider such as Sky has been vital for the game's improvement.

"In 1996, the BBC had the television rights for a very small fee, English cricket was at a low ebb and there was little money in the game," he wrote. "My colleagues and I set about bringing money into the game with the ambition of both our men's and our women's teams being the best in the world by 2007.

"England contracted players, we built the Academy at Loughborough, we engaged Duncan Fletcher ... as well as introducing the two-division championship, divisional limited-over competitions and the Twenty20 competition. None of this could have happened without the Channel 4 and Sky money."