A bit of interesting news yesterday about a dispute between the West Indies cricket board and Sky Sports, which owns the television rights to the current England tour of the Caribbean.
When the deal was signed years ago, there was only one T20 on the schedule. When two were added, the Windies said they would need to charge Sky an extra fee per match for the broadcast rights. Sky was like no way dude. The games will still probably be broadcast in the UK, but it is a real financial blow for Cricket West Indies, as the matches’ broadcast rights are valued at, get this, $1million US each. Now, it’s no secret that there is way too much money changing hands in professional sport, but when you see the numbers in black and white like that, it really is jaw dropping. A million dollars!? For 3.5 hours of cricket? Amazing.
In comparison, and it’s apples to oranges, but local Fox Sports affiliate, Fox Sports North, pays about $250,000 for each Minnesota Twins game it broadcasts. And Minnesota is a small market. Some of the teams in the bigger markets command more than twice that.
It’s just a reminder that we are not fans, we are a product, sold to broadcasters and then re-sold to advertisers. When decisions are made that adversely affect what it means to be a fan of cricket — or any sport — The Hundred is one that springs to mind immediately — we need to remember: boards don’t care about us, as long as we keeping tuning in. The only way to affect change in sport is to simply turn it off, and then boycott sponsors. As long as we keep tuning in and buying Miller beer, then nothing will ever change that doesn’t directly raise the profits of the handful of plutocrats in charge.
In other news around the sport, the new European T20 league was formally announced today. Of course, it’s a little problematic: yet another T20 league where players can line their pockets by hitting a few big sixes, all while the first class game fades into the distance. And it’s not just the players that make the money, it’s the boards too. A domestic T20 league that attracts overseas players is a license to print money, something a little unheard of in modern day cricket. But there we are.
However, in this case, the league consists of one full Member and two Associate Members: Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands, respectively. And so while the league willl make money, that money will go to boards that need it the most. Especially Scotland and Netherlands, two countries in desperate need of getting over the hump. And a nice shiny new payday will help. If the game is to grow, these leagues are a necessary evil.
Personally, I hope the matches are streamed somewhere where I can watch. These new leagues will define the future of the game, for better or for worse.