November 12, 2009

A terrestrial return would cripple English cricket

Having made their bed with Rupert Murdoch and feathered it to the tune of £300 million over four years, the ECB should not be ejected from it
53

First, a confession. I came to cricket by accident, towards the end of the 1980s, when for five days in every fortnight of the summer holidays, my regular BBC viewing would be hijacked by a bunch of blokes in white, doing a whole lot of not-a-lot for hours and hours on end. Using an eleven-year-old's blend of inquisitiveness and idleness, I parked on my sofa and resolved to work out what on earth was going on, and slowly but surely a habit was formed that has lasted a lifetime.

Yes, my cricket obsession began in exactly the manner envisaged by the department of culture, media and sport, who have received their recommendations from David Davies, the former chief executive of the FA, and are set to announce that from 2016 onwards, the Ashes should be restored to the list of terrestrial TV's sporting "crown jewels". You might think I'd be delighted that a whole new generation of children are being offered the same route into the sport that I love. In actual fact, the notion fills me with dread.

Make no mistake, this is a move that could cripple the finances of English cricket. The ECB have been criticised, and rightly so, for the series of decisions that brought them to this point in time - but having made their bed with Rupert Murdoch and feathered it to the tune of £300 million over four years, it's only right that they should be left to lie in it. Instead, in what is being portrayed in some quarters as the Government's revenge on Murdoch for The Sun's switch of allegiance to the Conservatives, the ECB are being forcibly ejected from their bed, and cast out into the cold of a recession-hit economy.

The decision to re-classify the Ashes is misguided for two principle reasons, and that's even before the monetary aspect is taken into account. Firstly, it fails to take into account the massive and ongoing revolution in viewing practices that is underway in Britain and across the world right now. With the analogue switch-over now in full swing, and 2016 still a lifetime away in technological terms, who knows what will constitute "terrestrial TV" in seven years' time anyway? Whatever it is, it won't be the quartet of BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel Four that my generation knew growing up, and which compelled us to stick with the cricket because there was simply nothing better to be found on other channels.

Of course it would be nice if the peak that was reached for Sky's Ashes coverage this summer - 1.9 million - could come close to rivalling the 7.2 million who watched Kevin Pietersen's series-seizing onslaught at The Oval four years earlier, but times they are a-changing - and never in the history of mankind have they changed at a greater pace. Gone are the days when Morecambe and Wise could pull in 28 million viewers for their Christmas specials. No single media event will ever again be foisted on its viewers for want of an alternative.

At present, a bog-standard "freeview" package provides up to 35 "terrestrial" channels, including BBC Three and Four, E4, BBC News, Sky News, and CBBC. And that's not to mention perhaps the single most alluring alternative for today's bored youth, the internet, which has grown exponentially since 1998, the year in which the ECB took their home Tests off the Crown Jewels list. Even as recently as 11 years ago, the notion of a live event being streamed through a computer was still the stuff of fantasy. Last summer, Sky offered that very service to all its subscribers.

It takes a special dedication to commit seven hours a day, 35 hours a week, 175 hours a series, to watch an Ashes series end-to-end. As a point of comparison, you could watch the entire Premier League campaigns of Manchester United and Chelsea in that same period

The other unquantifiable factor is the sheer length of a Test match, and the astonishing scheduling commitment that it entails. Anyone can put aside 20 minutes to watch the Grand National, and most people of the right persuasion will set aside a three-hour window at the weekend to watch the FA Cup final. It takes a special dedication, however, to commit seven hours a day, 35 hours a week, 175 hours a series, to watch an Ashes series end-to-end.

As a point of comparison, you could watch the entire Premier League campaigns of Manchester United and Chelsea in that same period, with time left over to catch all the goals from the rest of the season. In fact, it is such a commitment that the BBC did not even bid for a highlights package when the rights were last reviewed in 2008, a fact that sent Giles Clarke into paroxysms of rage, particularly in light of their successful bid for that most exclusive of sports, Formula One.

But we all forget the gripes that the BBC's coverage regularly caused. Graham Gooch's 300th run at Lord's in 1990, for instance, was missed because they were showing the runners and riders for the 4.05 at Ascot. The news and weather would regularly cut into key passages of play, and even when Channel Four upped the ante with their groundbreaking coverage from 1999 to 2005, they still courted controversy when the traditional 11 o'clock start-time had to be brought forward by half an hour to allow their disgruntled regular viewers to tune into Hollyoaks on the dot of 6.30pm.

Clearly, cricket is too cumbersome a product to please everyone, no matter where it finds its home, but a dedicated sports channel is surely as good a place as any to set up home in an age in which the consumer is king - not least because the casual fan, who comes in search of the football, is more likely to hang around and take notice. What is more, for all the criticism of Sky Sports, they do have a vested interest in honouring their commitments to grassroots cricket, because it is only by getting their viewers up off their couches and into the nets that they can hope to perpetuate an interest in the sport.

Twenty percent of Sky's money is channelled directly into grassroots cricket, and that is the money that is most at threat if the government gets its way. Since 2006, 23,000 coaches have been brought through the system, including 10,000 in the last year alone, while the Chance to Shine programme, which seeks to bridge the gulf between clubs and schools, has got 800,000 children involved in the game since 2005.

Meanwhile the massive success enjoyed by England's women cricketers - Ashes winners and double World Champions - is directly attributable to the funding they have received that has enabled their key players to turn semi-professional. At the other end of the spectrum are the lucrative salaries that the elite men now enjoy. If, as the ECB fear, a third of their £85 million annual turnover could be wiped out by the decision, it will become ever more difficult to keep the lure of the IPL at bay.

It is especially unhelpful that only Ashes matches have been targeted - it is the equivalent of selling the rights to the Premier League but excluding all matches involving the big four. What is more, it enshrines the fallacy that England versus Australia is the only contest that counts. Like those bogbrush-haired fools Jedward on another of terrestrial TV's gems, X Factor, there is often a subtle distinction between the best and the most popular.

The Olympics is a showcase for the best, as are football World Cups and Wimbledon, which also happens to be the most prestigious of four Grand Slams. The 2005 Ashes was also a showcase for the best, because it featured the two leading teams in the world - one of which was arguably the greatest of all time - going toe-to-toe in a contest that England hadn't won for 18 years.

The 2009 Ashes, on the other hand, was a tussle between Nos. 2 and 5 in the world, while Ricky Ponting was the only globally renowned player to feature in all five matches. By 2016, who knows where in the rankings the two teams will lie, and who will be the star names. With the Rio Olympics and the European Football Championships also competing for airtime in that particularly crowded summer, cricket will surely find itself pining for its satellite certainties of old.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AkilKapasi on November 19, 2009, 13:16 GMT

    Andrew, since this only applies to home Ashes series, then surely the first Ashes series that would be broadcast under the new terms would be in 2017 and not 2016? So the worry about the series being up against the Olympics and the Euro Championships wouldn't be an issue.

  • MO.. on November 16, 2009, 8:36 GMT

    the truth can be found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/international/england/6569547/Scyld-Berry-ECB-can-afford-the-return-of-Ashes-cricket-to-terrestrial-television.html Which other countries have a similar set up to us in the Uk? Aussies don't, Indians, dont, Sri Lankans don't etc

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on November 15, 2009, 21:54 GMT

    I'm a cricket fan who was drawn to the sport in the days of watching the John Player League on Sundays; I have also spent most of the last decade as chairman of our local cricket club (which dates back to the 1880's) and as a coach of the U11's team, so I hope I'm in a better place to comment than most on this issue. In 2005 our club was buzzing with an influx of Juniors on the back of the Ashes series. In the four years that have followed, with the loss of cricket from terrestrial TV, the club has crumbled, with a dearth of new youngsters, such that we are barely able to field 3 junior teams. In all that time we have not received a penny of grant aid from the ECB (and indeed, following a fire, we survived only thanks to a donation from our local Sainsburys store!) Where is all this "grass roots" money going? Not into grass roots, for sure - but into lining the pockets of our highly paid international cricketers, South African Bosman players and of course the game's administrators!

  • WoundedSplinter on November 15, 2009, 19:31 GMT

    There are far too many "executives" in modern cricket who sit comfortably on large salaries.

    The size and scale of the support team for England tours (presumably funded by Sky money) is an embarrassment.

    There is no obvious reason why "cutting central contracts in half" -- as has been mooted by the ECB -- is necessarily a calamity.

    (Contentiously) If the county system cannot survive on it's own, I don't see why it should be subsidised by couch potatoes.

    Cricket will only survive if it's in the public eye. The (Summer) Olympics grab public attention every four years; the (Soccer) World Cup grabs public attention every four years. The (UK) Ashes should be allowed to do the same.

    I think that Sky have done an extraordinarily good job in televising cricket over the last ten or so years. I also think they should be allowed to broadcast the (UK) Ashes for free, in recognition of this fact. But the Ashes are, quite literally, a national treasure. We own them. The ECB does not.

  • snowdog62 on November 15, 2009, 14:33 GMT

    Just take a look at the logo in the top left corner of this page and you'll see where this article is coming from. It's disappointing and totally undermines Miller's reputation as a reporter with any kind of integrity. Shame on you. Cricket will survive with or without money.

  • MartinAmber on November 15, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    Sorry, but as freaky and uncool as it may sound in this day and age, this is one of those things that's about more than money. Comments from members of cricket cluibs suggest that profile from free-to-air TV is more important than any money that trickles down to the grass roots. Anyway, since when has trickle-down economics been a science as opposed to a nice theory? That said, Sky (and before them C4) have set the bar so high that many cricket fans will be rightly livid if a terrestrial bidder can't match their devotion to good coverage. Also, I don't like the fact that the Ashes is separated from other series. I know it belongs on a pedestal because of history, but the fact remains that (2005 apart) the best Test cricket involving England for the last 15 years has consistently been the series against South Africa, which have recently (and rightly) been granted 'icon' status.

  • gelert on November 14, 2009, 21:53 GMT

    Unlike Mr Miller, I first watched the ashes in 1956, when I was 10, on a neighbours black and white TV and from that day on I loved the game and watched all home games, including the Sunday afternoon matches with John Arlott. Since the Sky took over I have not watched a match. The cost of Sky is far too expensive and pensioners, on a state pension, have not got a hope of paying for it and they are the ones who have the time to watch. I have watched highlights and it appears to me that players are chasing financial rewards rather than the love of playing and the quality of English cricket is subsequently on the wain. England without Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pietersen is flat. If England have got new exciting players I will not know as I cannot watch the games. I would ask for a rethink, cricket needs money but they need supporters too and if things do not change the game will die out. Sky is just too expensive

  • crpcarrot on November 14, 2009, 12:49 GMT

    what rubbish even the ECB had £1billion who r they going to spend it on if no one wants to play cricket?? you just have to compare the amount of interest in cricket in the subcontinent where even series wehre the home nation is not playing is free to air and the level of interest in the UK.

  • Flymogram on November 14, 2009, 10:51 GMT

    I don't understand why there is all this scaremongering by people like Mr Miller. Sky have only been broadcasting domestic matches since 2006, and yet some people are making out that Sky have been generously funding English cricket for decades and that this is an attempt to rob the ECB. Are we supposed to believe that before Sky acquired the broadcast rights that county cricket was poverty-stricken? . Giles Clarke famously said that cricket is just like any other business. People like him need to realise that it is not a business. They seem to be forgetting that cricket is a spectator sport and it is important for it to be availiable to as many spectators as poissible. It is just a symptom of the modern obsession with money above everything else. I really hope that we will see cricket back where it belongs, on terrestrial television, whatever that may look like in 2016.

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 13, 2009, 20:54 GMT

    Sky,God bless them, are totally 100% committed to showing cricket,not just Tests and alone of any Broadcaster do the great game justice. Should they be deprived of one summer every 4 years given what they put in? Over the course of the later years of C20 the BBC systematicallly tried to make it unfashionalbe,just by the very somnolence of their presentation, the outdated non grooviness of the music at beginning and end, and their failure to show much other than internationals.One or two of the commentators were a panacea for insomnia. Their forte rather ilies in the presentation of Logos,and totally stupid cookery programmes and housemakovers.About twice a week they arise from the dead to allow a very good comedy programme,surely the only good thing do. BBC are not worth really £10 a yaer licence fee. They have 4 channels but still can't put on good programmes unless you like watching under age pregnancy stuff-yawn! Is anything worse than the return of cricket to BBC?

  • AkilKapasi on November 19, 2009, 13:16 GMT

    Andrew, since this only applies to home Ashes series, then surely the first Ashes series that would be broadcast under the new terms would be in 2017 and not 2016? So the worry about the series being up against the Olympics and the Euro Championships wouldn't be an issue.

  • MO.. on November 16, 2009, 8:36 GMT

    the truth can be found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/international/england/6569547/Scyld-Berry-ECB-can-afford-the-return-of-Ashes-cricket-to-terrestrial-television.html Which other countries have a similar set up to us in the Uk? Aussies don't, Indians, dont, Sri Lankans don't etc

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on November 15, 2009, 21:54 GMT

    I'm a cricket fan who was drawn to the sport in the days of watching the John Player League on Sundays; I have also spent most of the last decade as chairman of our local cricket club (which dates back to the 1880's) and as a coach of the U11's team, so I hope I'm in a better place to comment than most on this issue. In 2005 our club was buzzing with an influx of Juniors on the back of the Ashes series. In the four years that have followed, with the loss of cricket from terrestrial TV, the club has crumbled, with a dearth of new youngsters, such that we are barely able to field 3 junior teams. In all that time we have not received a penny of grant aid from the ECB (and indeed, following a fire, we survived only thanks to a donation from our local Sainsburys store!) Where is all this "grass roots" money going? Not into grass roots, for sure - but into lining the pockets of our highly paid international cricketers, South African Bosman players and of course the game's administrators!

  • WoundedSplinter on November 15, 2009, 19:31 GMT

    There are far too many "executives" in modern cricket who sit comfortably on large salaries.

    The size and scale of the support team for England tours (presumably funded by Sky money) is an embarrassment.

    There is no obvious reason why "cutting central contracts in half" -- as has been mooted by the ECB -- is necessarily a calamity.

    (Contentiously) If the county system cannot survive on it's own, I don't see why it should be subsidised by couch potatoes.

    Cricket will only survive if it's in the public eye. The (Summer) Olympics grab public attention every four years; the (Soccer) World Cup grabs public attention every four years. The (UK) Ashes should be allowed to do the same.

    I think that Sky have done an extraordinarily good job in televising cricket over the last ten or so years. I also think they should be allowed to broadcast the (UK) Ashes for free, in recognition of this fact. But the Ashes are, quite literally, a national treasure. We own them. The ECB does not.

  • snowdog62 on November 15, 2009, 14:33 GMT

    Just take a look at the logo in the top left corner of this page and you'll see where this article is coming from. It's disappointing and totally undermines Miller's reputation as a reporter with any kind of integrity. Shame on you. Cricket will survive with or without money.

  • MartinAmber on November 15, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    Sorry, but as freaky and uncool as it may sound in this day and age, this is one of those things that's about more than money. Comments from members of cricket cluibs suggest that profile from free-to-air TV is more important than any money that trickles down to the grass roots. Anyway, since when has trickle-down economics been a science as opposed to a nice theory? That said, Sky (and before them C4) have set the bar so high that many cricket fans will be rightly livid if a terrestrial bidder can't match their devotion to good coverage. Also, I don't like the fact that the Ashes is separated from other series. I know it belongs on a pedestal because of history, but the fact remains that (2005 apart) the best Test cricket involving England for the last 15 years has consistently been the series against South Africa, which have recently (and rightly) been granted 'icon' status.

  • gelert on November 14, 2009, 21:53 GMT

    Unlike Mr Miller, I first watched the ashes in 1956, when I was 10, on a neighbours black and white TV and from that day on I loved the game and watched all home games, including the Sunday afternoon matches with John Arlott. Since the Sky took over I have not watched a match. The cost of Sky is far too expensive and pensioners, on a state pension, have not got a hope of paying for it and they are the ones who have the time to watch. I have watched highlights and it appears to me that players are chasing financial rewards rather than the love of playing and the quality of English cricket is subsequently on the wain. England without Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pietersen is flat. If England have got new exciting players I will not know as I cannot watch the games. I would ask for a rethink, cricket needs money but they need supporters too and if things do not change the game will die out. Sky is just too expensive

  • crpcarrot on November 14, 2009, 12:49 GMT

    what rubbish even the ECB had £1billion who r they going to spend it on if no one wants to play cricket?? you just have to compare the amount of interest in cricket in the subcontinent where even series wehre the home nation is not playing is free to air and the level of interest in the UK.

  • Flymogram on November 14, 2009, 10:51 GMT

    I don't understand why there is all this scaremongering by people like Mr Miller. Sky have only been broadcasting domestic matches since 2006, and yet some people are making out that Sky have been generously funding English cricket for decades and that this is an attempt to rob the ECB. Are we supposed to believe that before Sky acquired the broadcast rights that county cricket was poverty-stricken? . Giles Clarke famously said that cricket is just like any other business. People like him need to realise that it is not a business. They seem to be forgetting that cricket is a spectator sport and it is important for it to be availiable to as many spectators as poissible. It is just a symptom of the modern obsession with money above everything else. I really hope that we will see cricket back where it belongs, on terrestrial television, whatever that may look like in 2016.

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 13, 2009, 20:54 GMT

    Sky,God bless them, are totally 100% committed to showing cricket,not just Tests and alone of any Broadcaster do the great game justice. Should they be deprived of one summer every 4 years given what they put in? Over the course of the later years of C20 the BBC systematicallly tried to make it unfashionalbe,just by the very somnolence of their presentation, the outdated non grooviness of the music at beginning and end, and their failure to show much other than internationals.One or two of the commentators were a panacea for insomnia. Their forte rather ilies in the presentation of Logos,and totally stupid cookery programmes and housemakovers.About twice a week they arise from the dead to allow a very good comedy programme,surely the only good thing do. BBC are not worth really £10 a yaer licence fee. They have 4 channels but still can't put on good programmes unless you like watching under age pregnancy stuff-yawn! Is anything worse than the return of cricket to BBC?

  • JonathanLiew on November 13, 2009, 17:44 GMT

    Firstly, anybody who says this is the government's revenge on Murdoch is just plain wrong. The panel was completely independent: there wasn't a single politician on it.

    Secondly, the ECB are quick to cry 'grass-roots' whenever their paydays are threatened. But the £12m in annual recreational funding amounts to only 13% of the ECB's expenditure. They spend almost three times as much as that on sweeteners to the 18 counties, as well as in excess of £3m on salaries and pensions for their 60(!) executives. And that's before we get to Michael Vaughan's central contract. Revenue will increase next year with the Pakistan-Australia matches and the expanded Twenty20.

    The ECB can make plenty of economies without touching a penny of the grass-roots budget, and they're taking us for fools if they try and convince us otherwise.

  • SehwagShow on November 13, 2009, 16:06 GMT

    I think alot of commentators including andrew miller are missing some key points by not thinking in the long term (even beyond 2016)....yes taking away right from pay tv will reduce money available to grass roots, and so for a while grass roots will suffer. However, without making sport available on free to air, there is a chance the grass roots will die out completely in the frist place..what good will the pay tv money be then..

    also new young members of cricket clubs would be brought into the game by it being available on terestial television, in time wouldnt their yearly club fees at the very grassroots not rebalance the loss of pay tv revenue..

  • DesPlatt on November 13, 2009, 15:54 GMT

    May not be at my most coherent as have to rush before doing more work. I don't think it will happen anyway and frankly if all the SKY commentators are freelance and were to switch to free TV , I wouldn't be too interested in being glued to the set as I used to be as .Atherton( who clearly enjoys commentating on the game much more than he enjoyed playing it) apart, most of them annoy me. I preferred Channel 4/5.

    The argument that there will be a lot more SKY viewers by then doesn't really hold. SKY have already had twenty years and still have a minority of viewing figures. BBC now have BBC3 and BBC 4 which they could use in the day. Unlike many people here, I respected the right of tennis, racing and golf fans to at least share the airwaves with us in the different age that existed then, even though they aren't a patch on cricket.

    My father would certainly not have had the chance to indoctrinate me on the world's greatest game without free to air TV .

  • balajireddy on November 13, 2009, 15:12 GMT

    why crib about lost money? it is easy to cram in another pointless ODI series involving either india or pakistan. there is also the possibility of hosting tests for pakistan. if nothing else works, try to hire lalit modi for a year :)

  • pragmatist on November 13, 2009, 15:10 GMT

    I agree with those commentators wondering why the ECB needs quite so much money. How ever did it survive before Sky's deals? If the only reason is to allow more professional cricketers to be employed to play to empty county grounds, perhaps the game could do with some slimming down. I've heard Giles Clarke interviewed on this point and he seems over-bearing and arrogant when faced with genuine callers who say that their clubs haven't seen a penny or haven't had any influx of youngsters after this year's Ashes. I don't see why the EU doesn't get involved and insist that a single sport can't be shown by one provider (like in football). Still, no sympathy for BBC TV here either who have shown no interest in cricket for almost 10 years now.

  • greatbiglizard on November 13, 2009, 15:10 GMT

    i'm sorry this is a completely disingenuous article that can be safely ignored due to the unmentioned conflict of interest Mr Miller has in this matter given Sky's "partnership" with ESPN, the owner of this website. It is a potentially conceivable that a "terrestrial return would cripple English cricket" (tho i think you would need to make a stronger argument than you have made here) but that is not what is being proposed here. 5 tests are being preserved for free to air tv. sky will doubtless still produce the coverage for the ashes tests and will generate huge advertising revenue for these games. The good ships murdoch and ecb will sail happily on. It is critically important for the future of the game that young people are exposed to cricket, given that they no longer play it at school and if Sky cared as much about cricket as they pretend, they would support this move. Sky's subscriber numbers will never produce the next generation of player and supporters for the game we all love

  • GallusCC on November 13, 2009, 14:36 GMT

    @Hebet: Sorry to disappoint you, but I am one of the five million people that watched in 2005, but not this time, and I am no pensioner. You'd have lost that bet. Maybe you should refrain from making such sweeping statements, or at least transfer "a lot of money" to my account. Lets not even go into discussing whether people should pay for TV, or whether they are fools to do so. I was definitely cursing the horses when Four switched to them right in the middle of a session, but without terrestrial TV, I would not be reading this website, let alone going to my local CCC. Small change compared to Sky's money, but also the possibility that my little ones might be encouraged to play with cork and willow. Also, the recession may well lead to a smaller fee being offered to the ECB next time around, so the financial argument is possibly moot, anyway.

  • Normans_Conquest on November 13, 2009, 14:20 GMT

    Tv as we know it will be dead by 2016 anyway, everything will be straight from your pc .... and the bbc will be owned by Murdoch.

  • dsquires on November 13, 2009, 14:01 GMT

    I can still remember how I got into cricket. It was an Ashes series. My brother and I were on our school holidays and it was on the BBC. Around the same time the ZX Spectrum was released and we started playing "Test Match" continuously. From then on we watched all the cricket we could, particularly looking forward to the one day matches (i.e. county cricket) on Sunday Grandstand.

    If the BBC was still airing cricket regularly I think it would be beneficial to the game in terms of national interest. However, they aren't. Airing a handful of matches every few years will be completely pointless.

  • Bingoe on November 13, 2009, 14:00 GMT

    As a junior cricket coach and club player I can see firsthand the impact of all this. I started coaching in the UK in 2003, at that time new recruits in the 8-9 age group were in good numbers enabling us to comfortably put out strong teams. This has fallen away over the past 3-4 years to the point that we have to now hunt out young players - visiting schools, coercing current players to bring friends etc etc to get the numbers sufficient to put out sides. We are not an insignificant club, we have a high profile in our local area, a prominently located ground and excellent facilities, the sad fact is that cricket has become invisible to younger children.

    There's no point getting grants if you have no players to benefit from them, I am pleased cricket is coming back to free to air. In my view it couldn't come fast enough!

    Bruce Ingoe Sulhamstead & Ufton CC

  • 200ondebut on November 13, 2009, 12:17 GMT

    JayPmorgan makes a good point - perhaps it is in cricket's interest for the ECB to be crippled financially. Perhaps then we will have a streamlined structure rather than one that panders to the self interest of the counties. That said wthout the lure of money our most talented sportsmen/women will be drawn away to either other sports of the much shorter version of the game (20/20). What ever decision is made it should be done in the best interests of the sport and the National side and not those who sit at home and watch.

  • Delboy71 on November 13, 2009, 11:41 GMT

    The funding that my 'Clubmarked' Club has never managed to get its hands on is nothing compared to the amount of junior players we got after 2005 Ashes. The grass roots money seems badly targetted and, to many Clubs, non existant so I think this argument is nothing more than a smokescreen to try and allow he ECB to continue to ride the Sky gravy train....

  • D.V.C. on November 13, 2009, 11:16 GMT

    Nobody decides to pay money to watch something on TV or the internet without thinking that they are going to like it. If you don't introduce youngsters to the game then they will not have an opportunity to grow to like it. I wonder, does anyone have figures of the number of junior cricketers registered in England for the last decade or so? I'm willing to bet the numbers have fallen off since 2005. Now, without players you don't get results, without results popularity in your team wanes, when that happens what people are willing to pay for TV rights drops. Having no cricket on terrestrial free to air TV is shortsighted.

  • JayPmorgan on November 13, 2009, 11:02 GMT

    I think this will be a good thing in the long term. This is an opportunity for the game in the UK to streamline itself. If all the counties are relying on money from sky and cannot sustain themselves then it really needs to be looked at. There are too many first class teams, I really think we need to follow the model in Australia and regionalise teams into about 8. This will also help in producing better quality cricketers. There needs to be short term pain for long term gain. Additionally too much emphasis is put on Ashes cricket, to the detriment of other international cricket. If you listen to players, everything is geared towards Ashes and no other matches matter. This will not help in attracting people to test cricket if the players themselves only seem to be concerend about the Ashes and everything else is a rehersal.

  • Herbet on November 13, 2009, 10:45 GMT

    I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that the 5.3 Million people watching in 2005 that wern't in 2009 were pensioners. a) because they are the only people not at work on a monday afternoon and b) they are the only people who don't have Sky! Sky's coverage is far superior to anyone's elses, if the Ashes are to go Terrestrial then there must be the option for them to stay on Sky as an alternative choice.

  • Agermeister on November 13, 2009, 10:04 GMT

    Personally I don't see what the fuss is about, although Sky's coverage I will admit very good, and the investment is very crucial, the very fact barely anyone could watch the Ashes live this summer, one of the major sporting events is actually criminal in my book. How are people meant to get interest when a large sector of the population can't watch it. The difference in interest from 2005 and 2009 is obvious to see, and failed to capture the interest.I'll admit to crying in 2005, as it was a bittersweet moment, winning the Ashes, but live cricket disappearing. All this talk about money, surely if it is just the Ashes, Sky can have the contract for the rest of the coverage, still a large amount of money. It is typical of the ECB to be bothered more about money rather than the game itself, having Sky means only the upper and middle classes who can afford Sky can get interest while the working classes/poor can't get interest and knowledge keeping the game for the rich clique as usual.

  • NickHughes on November 13, 2009, 9:49 GMT

    Covering 1 series on freeview every 4 years isn't going to cripple English cricket so let's forget the hyperbole. OK, so Sky has bought English cricket but that doesn't mean they have a God given right to keep a hold of it. The full implications of no cricket on free to view TV haven't been felt yet: It could be that over the next 5-10 years the amount of young people taking up the game could drop dramatically as they have no access to Sky TV.

  • MaxDamage on November 13, 2009, 9:39 GMT

    As bizarre as it sounds, due to the scheduling contstraints on terrestrial TV I don't believe any of BBC, ITV, C4 or C5 will bid for the ashes when the time comes. Which ever government is in charge will have egg on their faces. By the time the 2016 ashes comes around cricket will have been away from free to air TV for 11 years and the recent TV deal indicates they don't want cricket back. Don't be surprised if Sky sort something out so they can still show it live. Fair play to Sky also, I don't have Sky Sports and can't afford it either but they did offer everyone the the chance to subscribe to Sky Player for half price during the recent ashes series. That was £34 well spent for two months of action.

  • Ramski1 on November 13, 2009, 9:31 GMT

    I grew up watching cricket on the BBC. TV is the front line to getting kids interested in a sport that in turn leads to them playing it. Investing money in grass roots is pointless if the kids are watching other sports and taking them up instead.

    I understand the argument about the money Sky bring in and the quality of their production.

    The key is that there should be SOME cricket on terestrial TV. With the amount of cricket currently played by the England team, surely a compromise can be reached to allow for this. For exampe why not have international 50 over cricket or 20 20 on terestrial, this would potentially address the problem of scheduling as the game is much shorter.

    Also domestic 20/20 should be on terestrial TV. Im not a big fan of 20/20 but clearly it appeals to the kids, and the purpose of having cricket on terestrial would be to attract a younger audience who in time will grow into the sport, finally becoming a Sky subscriber. Win Win!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 13, 2009, 9:14 GMT

    "...compelled us to stick with the cricket because there was simply nothing better to be found on other channels!"... You see Mr Miller, that's just it! For the millions of people out there like me and my family who don't have the likes of Sky, yet for some bizarre reason still have had to pay a T.V. licence for what little entertainment BBC/ITV could provide, full coverage of test matches and the odd county game were simply a God-send to many of us cricket fans. The only people angered by this decision are fat-cats and/or people who regret spending all that hard-earned money on installing Sky TV!

  • ricf on November 13, 2009, 8:54 GMT

    redneck is wrong - although the coverage of cricket at the ground is good in Australia, the local TV station's treatment of it is appalling. Come 6 o'clock, its over to the News. For Tests in Perth, we don't see the last session. If there is anything remotely interesting on at the same time (eg, Sydney Hobart yacht race), its over to that. I'm with wizman - get it all onto pay TV, where they treat it with respect, and at $12 a week, its cheap. Andrew Miller is right - cricket is best served by organisations who pay big money to get it. Free-to-air treats it with contempt.

  • Harvey on November 13, 2009, 8:50 GMT

    The point about the media we use to view cricket in years to come possibly changing is worth addressing. I remember reading somewhere that Giles Clarke used precisely this argument to justify the Sky monopoly at the time it was agreed. He said something along the lines that that by the time it came to the deal being renegotiated, we would all be watching cricket on handheld devices rather than TV's. It turned out to be pie in the sky of course, and the return of cricket to terrestrial TV that he hinted would take place after the deal expired never happened. The reason it never happened was that English cricket's audience and profile had already diminished to such an extent as a result of the Sky monopoly that the terrestrial broadcasters decided it didn't make commercial sense to make a bid. Andrew, your experience of getting into cricket through terrestrial TV is very similar to mine and countless others. English cricket has already lost an entire generation of potential fans.

  • vswami on November 13, 2009, 8:20 GMT

    What is more important for development of a game. Investments in infrastructure or bottom up passion for the game ? Its of course a bit of both, but for a youngster to develop a great passion for the game, he needs to have access to watch it. Without passion, no amount of investment would help and talent with passion can easily make up for reduced infrastructure. For example, whats the investment made by BCCI in Dhoni ? Practically nothing, he is self made and driven by passion for the sport. For a country that invented the game, its alarming that a mere 1.9M was the peak audience for the Ashes.

  • 200ondebut on November 13, 2009, 8:06 GMT

    The trouble is that terrestial TV (ESPECIALLY THE BBC) do not respect the test matches. How many times have we been starved of cricket because they have switched over to tennis? I will never forgive the BBC for switching to some worthless horse race just as Graham Gooch was approaching his 300 at Lords. The reason tests had to finish at 6pm was because of Chanel 4 programming. Sky do a great job - especially in HD. Cricket needs to be able to pay its player properly if test cricket is not to be eroded (have we forgotten the Flintoff debate?) and it can ony do this with the revenue its gets from TV rights. All this can do is drive the home matches "away". Football is a far more popular sport and far more expensive to watch - if the government want to be popularist then make these live matches free to view. This though is just another pathetic example of the dying throws of a desperate government that has put us all massively in debt.

  • Ericatom on November 13, 2009, 7:52 GMT

    2016 is indeed a crowded summer, with the footy and the Olympics - but no Ashes. Am I missing something here? I understood the 'crown jewels' list would take effect from 2016 onwards, with the 2017 Ashes the first affected.

  • HotSpotInventor on November 13, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    The answer could be easier than we think.....2 different TV feeds of the same match. For example, Sky could produce a basic vanilla feed for free-to-air and a more advanced feed for its paying customers. The pay feed would have the best commentators, all the possible camera angles plus all the latest technology (Hawkeye, HotSpot, High Speed ultramotion etc) while the free-to-air version would not have the bells and wistles.....This would give all people the choice....do they want to watch the basic no-frills coverage for free or do they want to pay in order to see the fancy coverage....Who thinks that's unfair.

    I would tend to suggest that Sky could still keep up their subsricption numbers to be in a similar situation as they currently are.

  • ww113 on November 13, 2009, 7:06 GMT

    I will never forgive terrestrial TV for turning me into a Cricket addict when I was growing up.Sitting for hours,doing nothing.And it wasn't just me,countless millions were hooked this way.

  • SpottedHyena on November 13, 2009, 5:51 GMT

    lol @ 20% invested in grassroots cricket - unless it's South African Schools cricket there really is no use...why don't they rather spend it on bribing the EU to kill Kolpak - also I doubt Sky is paying £300 million just for the Ashes - they only want to put that one little series on terrestrial - surely the ECB will manage on the remaining £200-odd million...

  • wizman on November 13, 2009, 4:00 GMT

    Here in Australia we have a timezone problem. There are up to 5 timezones across the country from east to west with daylight savings, and channels show sport on delay so that regular programs and news at 6pm are shown locally. This means that a game could be over before being screened on the other side of the country! But here pay-tv fights to show sport on a federally legislated restricted list. Free to air tv gets first and only dibs on the bits of the restricted list they want to broadcast either live or on delay and pay-tv gets squat (I think they showed less than 20% of their restricted content live or on delay). Here the cricket channel (Ch9) will show the Ashes (away) and home tests, but nothing else. They will show the Wimbledon Final live, but not other round matches, but on the restricted list pay-tv cannot show it at all! Dedicated sports channels or pay-tv is the only way to go. I have pay-tv and watch all the darn cricket they telecast, Aus playing or not.

  • redneck on November 13, 2009, 3:59 GMT

    in australia the government made it mandatory for all australian matches at home be shown on free to air tv and it couldnt work better for the sport as it makes the game accessable to all australians and therefore adds to the sports popularity. cricket in england as i understand it already suffers from an elitist tag and i cant see england home games being shown exclusivly on pay tv (or the extreamly high ticket prices for that matter) helping that cause. yes the money may get pumped into junior develpoment but how many more juniors would take up the game if it was available to them to watch in their homes and see their idols playing on tv or even at the ground regardless of their parents earning ability? it would seem to me the ecb has forgotten what really matters and is all too obsesed with the almighty pound! surely more kids taking up the sport is the most important thing in the long run. no point funding junior development if there are no juniors to develop.

  • Harvey on November 13, 2009, 2:39 GMT

    My only objections to the goverment's decision are that it doesn't go far enough, and by the time it gets implemented (if it ever gets implemented ), more irreversible damage will already have been done. ALL home Test cricket, not just the Ashes needs to be brought back onto terrestrial. There's no reason why a settlement couldn't be reached which allowed Sky to continue to screen matches, in the same way as they used to in the days before they were given a monopoly. I expect many fans would choose their coverage in preference to that of a terrestrial broadcaster anyway. English cricket must already be suffering financially from the massive lowering of the game's profile as a result of the Sky monopoly. The Sky money will cover this in the short term, but how long will Sky be prepared to pay big money to screen something that's being watched by an ever-diminishing audience?

  • mittheimp on November 13, 2009, 1:45 GMT

    The notion that 'The ashes' is all that matters is a nonsense, disrespectful to all other countries and a real threat to international Test cricket. However cricket, in some form needs to be on free to view TV. It is currently the only national sport that has no live terrestial TV coverage. This doesnt have to be the ashes, and in fact shouldnt only be the ashes!! but it must be something! I suggest every Lords test match be shown on the BBC each year and one of Ch4 or CH5 be given priority for covering international 20/20. This would suit everyone to some degree - It wouldnt effect Sky subscription, and would hopefully encourage new subscribers. 20/20 has real potential to be a TV winner and am suprised that those commercial channels are so far ignoring it!

  • gle007 on November 13, 2009, 1:36 GMT

    This article does not make any sense.

    The author states that people are not forced to watch Test cricket because of multi-channel TV and other media today and people are not willing to commit the time to watch a Test series. Why bother to play test cricket at all? It's obvious that free to air Test cricket would get 10 times the viewing figures on Sky.

    Britains Got Talent got an audience of 20 mil. 12 mil watched Andy Murray at Wimbledon. A big cricket event would get big audiences.

    Most sports have a mixture of free to air and pay tv coverage. Football has the Champions League, world Cup etc on free to air tv, and Sky has the Premier League. The BBC show the Open and the Masters in Golf, and Sky have the USPGA and US Open. Surely SOME cricket should be on free to air tv?

    The author also says that the Olympics and the Football World Cup are special because they "showcase the best". Can we please decide which cricket event "showcases the best" and put it on free to air tv?

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 13, 2009, 0:45 GMT

    This is an argument that could run and run. It could become the next big bore. Money vs coverage. I think the BBC proved last time they were inadequate. Spending time "watching" cricket became watching everything but cricket. Channel 4 was half decent apart from Saturday afternoon racing if you did not have Film 4. It's hard to think that BBC would do it any better next time- after 2016. The main argument is whether enough people get to see games on Sky or computer, for which we do not have figures from this summer. Does the loss of revenue justify a larger audience? On the face of it it's swings and roundabouts- either kids watch or they get coached. I like the argument though that for many the whole way TV is presented and watched will have changed by 2016. In this present technological explosion it's quite likely everything will be different. perhaps it's not the young audience who necessarily hold the key, but retired people. Should not they be considered in part?

  • Nathan_a on November 12, 2009, 23:02 GMT

    Mr. Miller's argument : If 6 test matches - 30 days of live Ashes cricket are not shown by an Australian owned SKY TV, 4 years from now, English cricket's very foundation will be eroded.Well if it is true then ECB is already in the path destroying the sport. I think ECB should learn from what India did. India did the opposite, they went away from the free to air channel and yet made sure the game grew in popularity. Cricket and Tennis are the perfect advertiser's sport - with breaks for ad slots. ECB should first popularise the sport by taking it to young children and women and then dictate terms with the broadcasters.

  • attilathecricketer on November 12, 2009, 22:42 GMT

    Not all of us can afford to pay for Sky. I earn less than the national average wage and I have to make the choice to spend money on playing the game or watching it (match tickets are too expensive as well) and I choose to play (the only live cricket I saw all summer was a women's one dayer at Chelmsford for £5). At the time of the last deal we were told life is tough by the ECB. Well, just like I do, they will just have to cut their cloth to suit their budget and pay the players and executives less. I will say that I have seen evidence that the money has benefited the grass roots and the women's team seem to have benefited and it would be a shame to see that cut.

  • AviM on November 12, 2009, 22:30 GMT

    Lets just focus on Cricket for a minute!!!

    hmmmmm.....

    Ok.. Travis put it right...Sky can afford! Ok! Is the ASHES the most important series yet!!! OK lets accept it

    Do you ??

    India vs Australia ? Pakistan vs Austraia ? etc......etc......

  • Dr_Spin on November 12, 2009, 21:58 GMT

    Anyone over the age of 12 will remember what cricket coverage was like before Sky. Peter West, one camera, old fashioned dross which all but sucked the life out of the game for any young viewers. Sky brought innovation, passion and investment. Before them if you wanted to follow an England tour anywhere except Australia you had to listen on the radio or refresh teletext on your TV. West Indies? Dream on. India? You're kidding. Bangladesh? Where's that? Having the Ashes on terrestrial is an insult to the huge investment Sky has made in our game. Imagine trying to convince the IPL that they should sell the rights to terrestrial channels at a discount. They'd rather play behind closed doors. Grow up Labour. (ps I don't work for Sky or anyone related to it)

  • FreddiesDad on November 12, 2009, 20:58 GMT

    Some of the missing TV money will be made up in advertising from companies keen to be associated with an event which drew in huge viewing numbers in 2005. It goes without saying that the less people watching the less people will advertise.

    My son will be 10 in 2017 and hopefully starting to like cricket - he wont even see it if it is on Sky and another opportunity to attract youngsters to the game will be missed.

  • Lateralis on November 12, 2009, 20:50 GMT

    I do not normally associate such crass and negative pieces from you Mr Miller. I am really getting fed up with the way in which just about everyone thinks in such "can't be done" terms. If the ECB needs more cash then it will find a way. As for your comments on the potential state of terestrial television in 8 years time... well, what of it? So what if there are tewlfthy more channels than there were back in the 1980s? None of them really matter; will GOLD or Dave TV want to show the Ashes live? I think not. What I do wonder though is why the terrestrial channels can't all club together, pool together their resources and expertise and create a terrestrial, free-to-view sports channel to rival that of Sky Sports. I have no idea the economics of such a ventue, but where there's a will there's a way.

    Oh... and what exactly has the last £300million given us? We had a world beating team in 2005. What of it now? Lots of cash does not equate to a better team with better results.

  • rumcork69 on November 12, 2009, 19:43 GMT

    Is this guy crazy, Andrew is upset because Cricinfo will lose out on coverage of the Ashes. Although the Ashes would not be on pay tv, ECB still would get fair money for their coverage on terestial tv, that why I pay for tv license. Also it would open up the world of cricket to youth of england, where cricket is considered a minority sport.

  • Kunal-Talgeri on November 12, 2009, 19:03 GMT

    "Twenty percent of Sky's money is channelled directly into grassroots cricket..." Wow, I didn't know that! That's wonderful in a nation where football hijacks audiences and the youth.

  • Travis on November 12, 2009, 18:50 GMT

    Don't believe the hype. Also: nobody panic. Sky will still buy the rights for at least as much if not more, and then in 2016 will put the Ashes coverage on Sky Sports News, if Sky Sports doesn't already have a terrestrial outlet. This ruling just forces them to be more accessible to people who can't afford it, and will also make it widely available in pubs and other public places.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Travis on November 12, 2009, 18:50 GMT

    Don't believe the hype. Also: nobody panic. Sky will still buy the rights for at least as much if not more, and then in 2016 will put the Ashes coverage on Sky Sports News, if Sky Sports doesn't already have a terrestrial outlet. This ruling just forces them to be more accessible to people who can't afford it, and will also make it widely available in pubs and other public places.

  • Kunal-Talgeri on November 12, 2009, 19:03 GMT

    "Twenty percent of Sky's money is channelled directly into grassroots cricket..." Wow, I didn't know that! That's wonderful in a nation where football hijacks audiences and the youth.

  • rumcork69 on November 12, 2009, 19:43 GMT

    Is this guy crazy, Andrew is upset because Cricinfo will lose out on coverage of the Ashes. Although the Ashes would not be on pay tv, ECB still would get fair money for their coverage on terestial tv, that why I pay for tv license. Also it would open up the world of cricket to youth of england, where cricket is considered a minority sport.

  • Lateralis on November 12, 2009, 20:50 GMT

    I do not normally associate such crass and negative pieces from you Mr Miller. I am really getting fed up with the way in which just about everyone thinks in such "can't be done" terms. If the ECB needs more cash then it will find a way. As for your comments on the potential state of terestrial television in 8 years time... well, what of it? So what if there are tewlfthy more channels than there were back in the 1980s? None of them really matter; will GOLD or Dave TV want to show the Ashes live? I think not. What I do wonder though is why the terrestrial channels can't all club together, pool together their resources and expertise and create a terrestrial, free-to-view sports channel to rival that of Sky Sports. I have no idea the economics of such a ventue, but where there's a will there's a way.

    Oh... and what exactly has the last £300million given us? We had a world beating team in 2005. What of it now? Lots of cash does not equate to a better team with better results.

  • FreddiesDad on November 12, 2009, 20:58 GMT

    Some of the missing TV money will be made up in advertising from companies keen to be associated with an event which drew in huge viewing numbers in 2005. It goes without saying that the less people watching the less people will advertise.

    My son will be 10 in 2017 and hopefully starting to like cricket - he wont even see it if it is on Sky and another opportunity to attract youngsters to the game will be missed.

  • Dr_Spin on November 12, 2009, 21:58 GMT

    Anyone over the age of 12 will remember what cricket coverage was like before Sky. Peter West, one camera, old fashioned dross which all but sucked the life out of the game for any young viewers. Sky brought innovation, passion and investment. Before them if you wanted to follow an England tour anywhere except Australia you had to listen on the radio or refresh teletext on your TV. West Indies? Dream on. India? You're kidding. Bangladesh? Where's that? Having the Ashes on terrestrial is an insult to the huge investment Sky has made in our game. Imagine trying to convince the IPL that they should sell the rights to terrestrial channels at a discount. They'd rather play behind closed doors. Grow up Labour. (ps I don't work for Sky or anyone related to it)

  • AviM on November 12, 2009, 22:30 GMT

    Lets just focus on Cricket for a minute!!!

    hmmmmm.....

    Ok.. Travis put it right...Sky can afford! Ok! Is the ASHES the most important series yet!!! OK lets accept it

    Do you ??

    India vs Australia ? Pakistan vs Austraia ? etc......etc......

  • attilathecricketer on November 12, 2009, 22:42 GMT

    Not all of us can afford to pay for Sky. I earn less than the national average wage and I have to make the choice to spend money on playing the game or watching it (match tickets are too expensive as well) and I choose to play (the only live cricket I saw all summer was a women's one dayer at Chelmsford for £5). At the time of the last deal we were told life is tough by the ECB. Well, just like I do, they will just have to cut their cloth to suit their budget and pay the players and executives less. I will say that I have seen evidence that the money has benefited the grass roots and the women's team seem to have benefited and it would be a shame to see that cut.

  • Nathan_a on November 12, 2009, 23:02 GMT

    Mr. Miller's argument : If 6 test matches - 30 days of live Ashes cricket are not shown by an Australian owned SKY TV, 4 years from now, English cricket's very foundation will be eroded.Well if it is true then ECB is already in the path destroying the sport. I think ECB should learn from what India did. India did the opposite, they went away from the free to air channel and yet made sure the game grew in popularity. Cricket and Tennis are the perfect advertiser's sport - with breaks for ad slots. ECB should first popularise the sport by taking it to young children and women and then dictate terms with the broadcasters.

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 13, 2009, 0:45 GMT

    This is an argument that could run and run. It could become the next big bore. Money vs coverage. I think the BBC proved last time they were inadequate. Spending time "watching" cricket became watching everything but cricket. Channel 4 was half decent apart from Saturday afternoon racing if you did not have Film 4. It's hard to think that BBC would do it any better next time- after 2016. The main argument is whether enough people get to see games on Sky or computer, for which we do not have figures from this summer. Does the loss of revenue justify a larger audience? On the face of it it's swings and roundabouts- either kids watch or they get coached. I like the argument though that for many the whole way TV is presented and watched will have changed by 2016. In this present technological explosion it's quite likely everything will be different. perhaps it's not the young audience who necessarily hold the key, but retired people. Should not they be considered in part?