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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Blow for terrestrial TV cricket
By Saj Chowdhury

The government has no plans to class England's home Test matches as premier "listed events", BBC Sport has learned.

Last December, the England and Wales Cricket Board awarded a four-year contract to BSkyB to exclusively show the matches live from 2006-2009.

"There's always an option to act if we feel we need to protect an event but at this moment we've no plans to do that," spokesman Anthony Wright said.

England home Tests are Group B events, so they are open to all broadcasters.

However, under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's Group B rules, terrestrial broadcasters are guaranteed at least a highlights package, should they bid for one.

This time around, the honours went to Channel Five, which plans to show a daily highlights programme when the new deal begins next year.

The ECB said the various deals, including the BBC retaining exclusive radio rights, were worth 220m - a 10% rise in real terms on the agreements for 2002-2005.

We want terrestrial broadcasters to put in serious bids for cricket rights
DCMS spokesman Anthony Wright

Wright added that it was understandable why the ECB opted for Sky's larger financial package, rather than Channel Four's - the only other bidding party.

"We have to recognise that the ECB made their decision in order to maintain their income at international, national and grassroots level," said Wright.

"We want terrestrial broadcasters to put in serious bids for the rights to broadcast cricket so that the amount going into grassroots sport isn't reduced."

Once upon a time, England's home Tests were listed as Group A events.

This category means that only free-to-air broadcasters can bid for an event that comes under this banner.

The list includes:

  • Olympic Games, Fifa World Cup finals, FA Cup final, Scottish FA Cup final, The Grand National, The Derby, Wimbledon tennis finals, European Football Championship finals, Rugby League Challenge Cup final, Rugby World Cup final

    So why were England home Tests relegated to Group B?

    "Cricket poses a very unique problem for broadcasters - it can last up to five days," added Wright.

    "To enforce that on free-to-air broadcasters would be requiring them to devote considerable airtime to a sporting event."

    That, of course, did not prevent Channel Four from bidding again for live rights.

    Events in Group B are made up of:

  • Non-finals matches of Wimbledon, Six Nations matches involving home nations, Rugby World Cup matches (not final), Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships, Cricket World Cup final, semis and matches involving home nations, Ryder Cup and golf's Open Championship

    Of those events, live rights of Wimbledon, Six Nations, Rugby World Cup, Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships and the Open Championship are currently held by terrestrial broadcasters.

    Under current rules, live coverage of all those events could be picked up by a non-terrestrial broadcaster.

    "Yes, it is possible that they could come in," said Wright.

    Tim Henman
    Wimbledon rights will be up for discussion in 2009

    "But we want to see as much first-class international sport on free-to-air television as possible.

    "There are commercial arrangements between broadcasters and sporting governing bodies that must take place as independently as possible."

    The BBC will continue to broadcast live coverage of the Six Nations until 2010 and Open Championship until 2011.

    It will also continue to be the host broadcaster and UK rights holder of the Wimbledon Championships until 2009.

    Once those deals end, then live coverage rights will be up for discussion again.

    If the governing bodies of those respective events follow the path of the ECB, then terrestrial television may find its sporting cupboard looking a little bare.

    BSkyB England Test deal approved
    25 Feb 05 |  Cricket


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