ECB fu­ri­ous at pro­posal to free-up sport’s ‘crown jew­els’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

ENG­LAND’S cricket au­thor­i­ties have re­acted fu­ri­ously to pro­pos­als that they should no longer be able to sell tele­vi­sion rights to the Ashes to the high­est bid­der.

The find­ings of a Gov­ern­ment re­view led by David Davies, the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, into sport’s listed events – the “crown jew­els” – were pub­lished yes­ter­day and will rec­om­mend that home Ashes Tests be shown only on free-to-air tele­vi­sion.

Any such move will also alarm BSkyB, who are beginning a £300m four-year deal for exclusive cov­er­age of Eng­land’s Test matches and have poured huge amounts into sport in a suc­cess­ful bid to boost sub­scrip­tion.

This re­port will not af­fect the cur­rent cricket deal, but could have a dra­matic in­flu­ence on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­tween Sky and the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board, who sources said were “an­gry and deeply con­cerned” by the en­tire process.

The pro­pos­als are for one list of live sport that must be shown on non-sub­scrip­tion chan­nels, with the secondary list of events that must be avail­able as high­lights be­ing scrapped.

Eng­land’s home Test matches had been on the B-list af­ter the ECB had lob­bied hard for them to be down­graded a decade ago.

That led to a lu­cra­tive part­ner­ship with Sky, but meant the sport was watched by far fewer view­ers.

Other sports that will be af­fected by Davies’ re­port in­clude foot­ball, with in­ter­na­tional qual­i­fy­ing games for the home na­tions to be added to the World Cup and Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship fi­nals as pro­tected events, while the Ep­som Derby and rugby league’s Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal may be re­moved from the list.

A num­ber of sports’ gov­ern­ing bodies are an­gry with the way in which the re­view has been car­ried out. Davies’ eight-strong panel was staffed by a di­verse col­lec­tion of for­mer sports­men and women and broad­cast­ers, in­clud­ing Ea­monn Holmes and Dougie Don­nelly, the face of BBC Scot­land’s foot­ball cov­er­age.

The brief is un­der­stood to have been nar­row: should there be a list of pro­tected events, and once they de­cided there should, which events “united the na­tion”?

It is es­ti­mated that mov­ing the Ashes onto any new list would cost the sport up­wards of £100m.

Mean­while Gor­don Smith, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, has de­scribed chang­ing the sta­tus of the coun­try’s in­ter na­tional qual­i­fy­ing games, cur­rently shown on Sky, as “dis­as­trous”. – Belfast Tele­graph

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