ICC events can't be allowed to swamp Tests - Roberts
The Cricket Australia CEO was cautious in his assessment of plans for an extra ICC event in the next rights cycle
A proposed extra global 50-over event in the next ICC rights cycle from 2023 to 2031 cannot be allowed to take on a time slot or a duration that will place further pressure on an already squeezed international schedule, the Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts has said. Speaking in the wake of the most recent round of ICC meetings in Dubai this month, where it was announced that a working group of member nations had agreed in principle to the chief executive Manu Sawhney's idea of selling eight ICC men's events in eight years as part of the next broadcast rights package, Roberts echoed the concerns of the BCCI and also the ECB about the prospect of more global events squeezing the bilateral calendar.
In what is becoming an increasingly divided cricket world between rich and poor nations, it is believed that as few as four major boards still see bilateral broadcast rights as their best source of income alongside domestic T20 leagues, while the rest are increasingly reliant on the revenue flowing from the ICC's sale of a global tournament package over eight years. Roberts, mindful of how CA must guard its place in a tightly packed southern hemisphere seasonal window, said there would be concerns for Test cricket should another event take up too much room.
"If it occupied too much of the calendar, but not if it occupied an appropriate part of the calendar," Roberts told SEN Radio. "So it all comes down to where everything fits across the 52 weeks of the year, it'd be fantastic if you could help us create a 56-week year, but I'm not sure that we can do that. So there's no aversion to another tournament but absolutely we've got to take care to make sure the pieces of the puzzle fit together as best they can.
"The ICC schedule of tournaments is certainly something that is absolutely up for discussion at the moment and will continue in the months ahead. There's a sense that fans really value World Cups and international events in general, and in this last cycle on the men's side I think we've had six world events in the eight years whereas the previous cycle we had one event per year with the Champions Trophy as part of that."
The ICC had only recently concluded a long and arduous process of sorting out bilateral series between nations into Test and ODI leagues, with the Test Championship culminating in a final every two years - the first to come in 2021 - and the ODI league serving as the road to World Cup qualification. Roberts' predecessor James Sutherland was a longtime proponent of this change, but the return to eight ICC events in with years would effectively serve to compete against the newly formed leagues before they had become established.
CA, as part of the schedule working group, has agreed to further discussions of the proposal, albeit with lots of conditions surrounding timing and tournament length. "We're supportive of exploring it in principle," Roberts said.
"What we're really keen to work on with the ICC and what we will be working on with the ICC and other ICC members is what parts of the annual calendar might the ICC events occupy in future, how many days of the calendar does that represent and how do we ensure the bilateral international cricket between ourselves and other nations is really embraced and respected in the process, so we've got a healthy balance of World Cups along with international cricket that occurs between World Cups and the space for great domestic leagues like the BBL and the IPL to thrive into the future."
"So it'll be a balancing act, we're supportive of the principle and we all know we've got a lot of work ahead of us on this calendar from 2023 to 2031. Broadly speaking the discussion and debate is around the opportunity to move from six events in a cycle back to eight events in a cycle which we used to have, and then the big question around all of that is if international cricket goes that way, then what will those tournaments look like, and that's the piece that remains unresolved."
The success of this year's World Cup in England, in terms of broadcast audiences and global interest, has helped to expedite the discussion, but Roberts and CA have plenty to consider given how much of their financial strength is drawn from domestic and international broadcast deals for bilateral cricket - AU$1.2 billion for the current broadcast rights deal in Australia alone.
"I think everyone's excited about the extent to which World Cups are really resonating with cricket fans and then the opportunity to keep improving the experience of those for fans and for players," Roberts said. "Because playing in World Cups in sports like cricket is something that's really difficult for a lot of athletes to do in other codes and it's a real competitive advantage for us in cricket that we want to capitalise on."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig