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