Sky and ECB 'in advanced talks' over deal extension for home England internationals
Cricket - 14 Jan 2022
Sky, the prominent UK pay-television broadcaster, is in advanced talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board around extending the deal between the two for another decade, it has been reported.
According to The Telegraph newspaper, which cites industry sources, Sky and the ECB are confident about reaching an agreement to extend the current deal, which gives the broadcaster rights to all England home internationals (both men’s and women’s) through the 2024 home season, as well as rights to the various domestic competitions.
Sky has held exclusive rights to the vast majority of England’s home series’ since 2006, although in its current deal, struck in late 2017, it shares rights to a small number of Twenty20 internationals each year with the BBC, the public-service broadcaster.
Its current deal runs out in late 2024, so an extension running until 2030 would actually only represent the same length of deal as is ongoing currently.
The Telegraph has reported that any new deal would be unlikely to surpass the current arrangement - worth £1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) - on a yearly basis, given the current economic situation related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal would likely cover the same competitions as under the current arrangement, including The Hundred, the franchise-based new-short form tournament introduced in the UK last summer for which rights are currently split between Sky and the BBC.
An early extension would suit both sides. The ECB would undoubtedly be keen on the accompanying financial stability, while Sky would be able to show subscribers that it remains committed to the sport.
Sky is not currently showing England’s ‘Ashes’ tour to Australia, with rival pay-TV broadcaster BT Sport having struck a deal with the Cricket Australia governing body in November.
Sky has not covered an away Ashes series since 2013-14, although The Telegraph says BT Sport’s viewing figures have dipped well below those expected by the executive team, below 100,000 for some matches, meaning Sky could feel justified in their decision not to bid for that particular set of rights.
Before 2006, Sky shared domestic rights to England’s home international series with commercial free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4.
Patrick Kinch, sport analyst at GlobalData, commented: “The ECB’s current domestic broadcast contract with Sky Sports, reportedly worth $251 million a year between 2020 and 2024, covers all of England’s home Test matches, One Day Internationals, and T20s, plus domestic T20 competitions and The Hundred, launched in 2021.
“While this is comfortably the biggest media rights deal currently held by the ECB, the positive reception around its new competition The Hundred, will afford the governing body more leeway regarding the floor price of its rights during talks with Sky.
“The Hundred provided great exposure for women’s cricket across the country, with fixtures breaking attendance records for English domestic club games and TV viewing figures for English women’s cricket, meaning the rights could go for more than $300 million a year.
“Further, the 2022 summer sees a packed fixture for England across all formats, with seven test matches scheduled including the postponed fifth test against India, with South Africa and World Test Champions New Zealand also visiting. On top of this nine white-ball fixtures against India and South Africa are currently set to be played, providing Sky Sports with a packed summer schedule which will also include the second edition of The Hundred and the T20 Blast.”
Elsewhere in English cricket, Lord Patel, chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, has said the county will face a “huge financial crisis” if the ECB does not lift its ban on the county’s Headingley ground hosting international cricket this summer.
Yorkshire lost its international hosting status in November, as the ECB punished the club for its hapless handling of the allegations of institutional racism from former player Azeem Rafiq.
Rafiq has recently said that Patel, who came in after the club’s former chairman Roger Hutton stepped down late last year, had made progress on the conditions set down to it by the ECB and that, therefore, the ban should be lifted before the summer.
The governing body has asked Yorkshire to meet certain conditions related to Rafiq’s allegations by early spring in order for the ban to be lifted.
Headingley is still appearing on Yorkshire's ticket-selling platforms as hosting two internationals next summer - against New Zealand and South Africa - and Patel has now said: “Regaining international status is absolutely crucial … Everything rests on it in terms of our future.
“We are working 24/7 to meet the criteria we’ve been set and I’m very confident we will meet it and I hope way beyond that as well.
He added that if international hosting status is not regained, “there is no question it would be a huge financial crisis.”
In November, it was reported that the revenue losses from sponsors pulling the plug on Yorkshire in the wake of the scandal could cost the club £500,000 ($686,000) annually.
The county, given its status as one of the premier hosts of England home fixtures, builds revenue from international games into its budget, and therefore a year (or more) without these matches would lead to a significant revenue shortfall.
Patel said he had “no other option … than to be hopeful” and that if the suspension is not lifted “hundreds of thousands of people who love cricket” would be deprived of the chance to watch England.
Yesterday, a UK governmental report, from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, recommended that public funding for cricket in the UK should be limited unless the ECB demonstrates “continuous, demonstrable progress” regarding eradicating “deep-seated racism.”
In publishing the report, the committee’s chair Julian Knight described Rafiq’s experiences as “typical of an endemic problem across the whole of cricket.”
So far, Hutton and Yorkshire’s chief executive Mark Arthur have resigned, while another 16 members of staff have been sacked.
Responding to the report, Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, said: “I’m very confident that in the not-so-distant future we can become an exemplar of the kind of behaviors that promote social integration and understanding.”
He added that he was “very confident … we can demonstrative massive progress in this space.”
The report’s conclusion, from Knight, states: “Public funding for cricket must depend on real leadership and progress by the ECB to tackle abhorrent behavior … The government must make future funding conditional on the game cleaning up its act.”
Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the Sport England body which allocates the governmental funding, said, meanwhile: “Sport England’s funding is explicitly linked to the development and implementation of robust diversity and inclusion policies and plans. We have made that clear to the ECB, who have responded positively and constructively.”
The DCMS report followed a set of hearings in November, during which Hutton admitted that Yorkshire CCC, in its current state, fell into the category of an institutionally racist organization.