Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence


Letter from the England and Wales Cricket Board Limited

  The England and Wales Cricket Board Limited (ECB) is the governing body for the sport of cricket in England and Wales. Our remit is to develop and nurture cricket from the Playground to Test arena. The ECB recently published Building Partnerships, cricket's strategic plan for 2005-09. A full copy of the strategy and more information on our business is available at www.ecb.co.uk

  Broadcasting revenue and the quality of coverage is extremely important to cricket. It delivers the majority of the income that we then reinvest in the game and is also the primary means by which cricket fans across the country can follow our sport.

  Few sports are as reliant on broadcasting as cricket in this country which derives 80 per cent of its income from our broadcasting contracts and this source of revenue funds the majority of our grass roots and England Teams (Mens, Womens, Youth and Disabilities) programmes. For example broadcasting income is more than 10 times the sum we receive from Lottery and Public Sector support, more than 10 times the figure we receive from sponsorship income and 20 times the income we receive from the surplus on staging major matches. In 2004 our spend on community/recreational cricket was £10.634 million. Our UK domestic broadcasting income was £47.4 million and overseas TV licence revenues were $2.7 million.

  As a percentage of UK Broadcasting income our investment in grass roots cricket is 22.4 per cent. This is extremely high as compared with other major sports and more than four times the 5 per cent target set at the time of de-listing.

  Being the lifeblood of the game's financial health, broadcasting income also provides the funds necessary for ECB to invest in programmes, facilities and initiatives designed to safeguard the future of the game in England and Wales. The following is a snapshot of the benefits we hope our investment will bring by 2009:

    —  Our England teams (Men, Women and Disability) to be ranked in the top two places in the world in Test cricket and the World Cup.

    —  7,500 coaches and 85,000 volunteers registered nationwide to help teach the game to a new generation.

    —  A Cricket Centre of Excellence within 30 miles of 85 per cent of the population.

    —  An expansion in the number of ECB recreational focus clubs from 165 to 1,000.

    —  20,000 school and club coaching sessions, delivered by working alongside the Cricket Foundation and the Lord's Taverners to reintroduce competitive cricket into state schools and forge strong links between schools and local clubs.

    —  £5 million of ECB interest-free loans to clubs for investment in the development of the game.

  The ECB owns the media and broadcast rights around the following domestic competitions and events:

INTERNATIONAL CRICKET

    —  International Test Match Cricket (7 x 5 day matches per year) all featuring England against a touring nation.

    —  International One Day Matches (10 x 1 day matches) all featuring England against a touring nation.

    —  International Twenty20 (a maximum of 4 x Twenty20 matches featuring England and both touring nations).

    —  Womens International ODI and Test cricket.

    —  England Under 19 Test and ODI cricket.

DOMESTIC CRICKET

    —  Liverpool Victoria County Championship (144 x 4 day matches played in two divisions featuring the 18 First Class Counties).

    —  The C&G Trophy (73 x 50 over matches played in two conferences (North and South) featuring the 18 First Class Counties, Ireland and Scotland culminating in a final to be played at Lord's between the highest placed team in both divisions).

    —  The Twenty20 Cup (79 x 20 over matches to be played by the First Class Counties split into three regional conferences of 6 teams. Quarter finals, semi finals and a final.) The group stages of these matches are played in a three week window in mid-summer.

    —  The 40 Over League (73 x 40 over matches played by the First Class Counties split into two performance based divisions).

RADIO COVERAGE

  The BBC's radio coverage of cricket is rightly famous the world over, with Test Match Special recognised for its dedicated, thoughtful and entertaining broadcasting of cricket. BBC radio also streams audio coverage worldwide by agreement with ECB. Our radio rights with the BBC are in place until 2009.

TV BROADCASTING

  Sky television has secured the exclusive rights to live television coverage of the ECB's properties, including the Test Matches, from 2006 to 2009. This has created a great deal of interest. The Committee might like to note the following:

    —  Neither the BBC nor ITV bid for any of ECB's television rights in the period 2006-09 despite the rights being divided into 27 different packages, specifically to make the process accessible to all broadcasters.

    —  There was no interest from terrestrial channels to televise overseas cricket tours, One Day Internationals , Womens Test Matches or ODIs , Under 19 Tests nor Domestic cricket.

    —  Channel 4 bid for a selected few Test matches, at a price that would have meant a reduction in cricket's income (in comparison to 2005) of £80 million over four years.

    —  A key component of the new arrangements is the package we have agreed with Five which will broadcast highlights of all major matches (except floodlit matches which will still be in progress) on terrestrial television between 7.15 pm and 8 pm. This is the time when most children, families and working parents can view cricket.

    —  The rights were awarded following extensive consultation with Ofcom and DCMS, who both gave their full approval to the process and outcome.

  The ECB is delighted to continue and extend our relationship with BSkyB who have consistently demonstrated excellence in their coverage. BSkyB has shown a real commitment to cricket through the 16 year relationship with the governing body for the game. It was Sky who first introduced coverage of overseas Test Matches in 1989-90 and it is Sky who currently make available Test and One Day International cricket from around the world. Sky regularly cover Womens International cricket , domestic competitions and Under 19 matches. Were it not for Sky's commitment to global cricket, there is little question that cricket fans would not be able to enjoy this range of cricket on TV.

  The ECB wishes to see a vibrant broadcasting market with many channels interested in showing cricket. We hope that the success in the Ashes and national interest this has created will increase interest in our future rights; indeed this surge of interest in cricket following the England men's and women's team success can be put down to the level of investment which ECB has dedicated to identifying and nurturing talent.

  During the past five years cricket has invested in a National Academy and County Academies which have been fundamental to the success of the England Team. Without broadcasting revenue this investment would not have been possible. Any significant reduction in this revenue would put the main driver of interest in any sport, namely a successful national team, at serious risk.

  ECB has already offered to meet with a range of broadcasters to pro-actively ensure that schedules and new opportunities can be identified to maximise the number of broadcasters who will express an interest in televising and transmitting cricket from 2009.

  It has recently been announced that the BBC has agreed the rights to screen highlights of the Cricket World Cup in 2007. We are delighted that cricket is returning to the BBC in this way and that there will be highlights of England's attempt to win this prestigous tournament.

  Sport is an issue of immense national importance—not just in terms of its contribution to the keeping the nation healthier and reducing crime but more fundamentally because it instills a set of core values especially amongst our young people and can bind communities.

  The ECB would like to suggest that as part of the Charter Review the BBC is given an enhanced responsibility, and generates a new opportunity, to support the coverage and development of sport across the country.

  ECB understands the very specific challenges that cricket poses to terrestrial broadcasters in terms of the longevity of some of its formats and the associated scheduling issues it carries with it.

  The establishment of a dedicated BBC sports channel would create a platform that would mean not only more space available to schedule top-level sport, but also create capacity for the broadcasting of minor and developing sports, such as junior and women's cricket. It would also allow the broadcast of coaching and training programs plus other initiatives which BBC now successfully publishes online at www.bbc.co.uk.

  The BBC has a long and proud history in covering sport. Recent statements expressing renewed interest in televising cricket are greatly welcomed by the ECB and cricket supporters. ECB further welcomes the statement that the BBC will be seeking to acquire rights at a fair market value. This policy is both enlightened and would not only protect the core revenue for the game of cricket but would also provide an opportunity for terrestrial television to transmit live matches of Domestic and International importance.

4 November 2005





 
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