England news March 20, 2010

Ashes TV change 'catastrophic' - Hugh Morris

Cricinfo staff

Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, has said the potential return of home Ashes series to the listed-event status, which would mean they have to be shown on free-to-air TV, would be "catastrophic" for the ECB's funding.

Since the prospect of the Ashes returning to the "crown jewels" category became realistic the ECB have made plenty of noise about the impact it would have on their finances and the knock-on effect to the game at all levels, but especially grassroots funding. The ECB have forecast a loss of £137.4 million for the period 2014-17 if the change goes ahead despite improved exposure by cricket being back in free-to-air TV.

The government's decision may now be delayed until after the general election, but the counties have spent the off season campaigning against any such move for a fear of the money they would lose and now Morris, one of the top men at ECB, has added his voice.

"It is a big debate. The impact that it would potentially have is pretty catastrophic, there is no doubt about that," he told reporters in Dhaka. "Catastrophic in terms of the amount of revenue we would lose that could be invested back into the game at grass roots level or into the women's game. It would potentially not be at the level we are at currently.

"The focus of our investment has been in getting people playing the game and the impact this might have in terms of lack of investment into clubs, schools programmes and coaches would be very significant."

The ECB have recently submitted their review - compiled at hefty expense - to the Department of Culture Media and Sport in an effort to prevent any change in the listings. "The ECB has been advised that there is a risk that a decision to list the home Ashes Test match series might cause pay-TV broadcasters to walk away from all or some of our broadcast rights," a statement said.

"The ecology of the international game of cricket, already under strain as a consequence of the rise to prominence of Twenty20 cricket, and specifically the ability of governing bodies to properly ensure the continued primacy of Test match cricket could also be harmed, probably irreparably.

"The ECB has informed the government that it is not inconceivable that the funding shortfalls created by listing would precipitate a mass exodus of players from the international game and their contracts with national cricket boards, to play instead in tournaments designed specifically to appeal to pay-TV broadcasters."

There is a certain irony, then, that Morris' main reason for being in Dhaka, as England complete their tour with the second Test, is to try and iron out difficulties in the latest batch of central contracts which remain unsigned even though they were awarded on October 1 last year.

It is the second time in two years that there has been an impasse - last year it revolved around IPL clauses, but this time that isn't believed to me a major sticking point - and Morris wants the problems sorted as soon as possible. "It isn't ideal," he said. "We don't want to be in this situation again. We have got a group of players who are very proud to play for England and are committed to the cause."

However, while they are committed to playing for England it is appearing increasingly unlikely that many will be released for domestic Twenty20 duty this coming summer. That is despite there being a two-week window between international commitments - following the two Test series against Bangladesh and before the one-day series against Australia in June - where they could take part in the revamped Friends Provident Twenty20.

Steve Elworthy, the new head of marketing and communications at the ECB, visited the squad in Bangladesh recently to try and convince Andy Flower, the head coach, how important it was to have leading England players on show domestically. But Morris reiterated the demands of the international schedule mean rest periods are precious.

"Clearly the bottom line is that we have to manage the workload of our players," he said. "It's great that we have a launch of that competition, but there is an enormous amount of cricket being played internationally now, which has been reflected in some of the selection decisions for this tour."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 22, 2010, 20:22 GMT

    Over a hundred million pounds is a definite drop in the bucket, and I suppose there is a possibility that developing cricket will suffer for it. But the opportunity for the country at large to see the Ashes? That's worth more than a hundred million pounds.

  • James on March 22, 2010, 15:44 GMT

    The ECB argument is quite floored and short sighted they are just after Money to keep ECB officials in a job. Clearly they are not interested in getting the general public interested in the Game and getting Kids to take up the Sport. Skys coverage make be great but only a few hundred thounsand watch their coverage comapred to the many millions who watched the Ashes of 2005 on channel 4. Following the ECB argument it makes you wander how cricket ever survived before all coverage was moved to a minority viewed channel. I got into cricket watching it on BBC and then Channel 4 and I suspect most people like me would nevor had got involed in the game had it been on Sky. I wander how much money the ECB gets actually gets pumped in to grass roots Cricket and how much is given to the Counties to keep most of them a float and into the pockets of our centrally contracted playes. The most thing for the ECB is kids playing the Game and the intertest generated from the 2005 ashes is priceless

  • S on March 22, 2010, 13:37 GMT

    One fundamental fallacy in this line of argument is that by providing easy and free access the game is going to reach a much wider audience and therefore will probably bring people into the fold.

  • Sanjeev on March 22, 2010, 13:20 GMT

    In India even though BCCI sells the TV rights to Private Broadcaster, they have agreement with the private broadcaster that the National Importance matches should be shown live on National Free to Air Channel i.e. Doordarshan on a 75(private Broadcaster who holds the rights):25 (National Free to Air Channel) Revenue share model.. I guess England only knows to invent.... Marketing and Other things they have to learn from INDIA and BCCI. Cricket was Invented in England but mastered by Indians and Twenty20 Was invented in England but Mastered and Well Marketed by Indian's :-)

  • Sanjeev on March 22, 2010, 13:04 GMT

    Free Suggestion to ECB hire Lalit Modi as a consultant for few days that too on Part-Time Basis... I'm Sure the same Hugh Morris will come and say we made this and we made that & our Revenue will has touched sky High!!!!!!!!

  • Adam on March 22, 2010, 11:43 GMT

    The ECB are entirely blind to anything beyond the short-term. Don't they have loads of money saved up from Allen Stanford? I'm sure every cricket lover in the country would much rather have the entire nation talking about cricket as they were back in the '05 Ashes, rather than a bucketload of cash and no kids interested in taking up the sport! Take your dollar goggles off, Morris

  • Bis on March 22, 2010, 11:20 GMT

    great points by everybody - showing how much cricket lovers care about democratic access to the game which is threatened by the unholy alliance of the game's administrators and corporate bodies. that is why society needs to step in and make it socially uncceptable to fence off cricket only for those privileged enough to have subscriptions and/or piss artists wanting to watch it in the pub. good point @rumcork69, only problem with australian model when i was there a few years ago was they had arbitrary times for switching coverage on and off depending on which region you lived in which was annoying - maybe that has changed now....

  • Steve on March 22, 2010, 10:10 GMT

    I don't want to see the Ashes on terrestrial TV for the simple reason that Sky do cricket broadcasting absolutely superbly. The possibility of seeing ITV potentially grab the coverage and having to endure the clueless Matt Smith, boring Graeme Hick and the absolutely hopeless Mandira Bedi fills me with outright dread.

  • Neil on March 22, 2010, 9:58 GMT

    The ECB has an invalid complaint, because if you look at austrailian cricket all there games are free to air for the public in austrailia and year after year Cricket Austrailia produces one of the best cricket teams. The Ashes is the best cricket series in the world (so they say), they need to learn how to market that product to create revenue for themselves. It is unacceptable to see the ECB is trying to deny the whole English public of seeing their fellow country men engage in the most exciting cricket series. The ECB needs to stop being lazy by just collecting pay televisions money and be innovative in order to generate money.

  • Deepak Sitaram on March 22, 2010, 6:37 GMT

    Phantom_XI is right in pointing out that the IPL has done a great job by reaching out to the wider audiences. I am sure the only way of making more and more young kids play is to reach out to them. The more number of fans will also translate into more companies willing to pour money into cricket. It is indeed sad that the decisions of the ECB are being influenced by media barons and not with keeping the best interests for cricket in mind. The sooner the ECB realises, like the IPL, that fans are the at the crux of things in cricket, the better.

  • No featured comments at the moment.