This is a great deal for English cricket and cricket fans in this country but the rise in revenue will also lead to a demand from players for a greater slice of the pie.
Let’s not kid ourselves. We are not immune to the kind of pay row that is ripping Australian cricket apart at the moment. The England & Wales Cricket Board has almost tripled its income compared with its last deal and the players, rightly, will demand their share. The popularity of the England team is down to them and the way they play the game. They deserve to be paid properly and will expect a decent rise. You can’t blame them for that and it is something the ECB will have to manage carefully because the counties will also be expecting their chunk of money too.
It is apparent the new league of eight teams has excited the terrestrial market and that is why the free to air broadcasters have shown an interest in cricket for the first time in years.
Twenty20 is an easier format to schedule for terrestrial broadcasters and the audience to understand. For a board launching a new product, the BBC is clearly the best platform. I should add that I work for the BBC but you do not have to be an employee to recognise the best way for a sport to maximise its reach is to go through its various platforms. The BBC can promote cricket on all its radio stations, the website and across various television shows that attract huge audiences. We have seen how popular Olympic sports have become through BBC exposure. Partnerships created through those sports because of visibility on free to air is hopefully something cricket can emulate.
But the funding for English cricket’s future comes from Sky. It is paying the big bucks to allow the game to grow. Hopefully in 15 years time we will look back and say Tom Harrison was the chief executive that instigated the change English cricket needed. You can only do that in a competitive market and the fact BT Sport has driven the price up has allowed the ECB to be more on the front foot in its negotiations. For a long time Sky has had the upper hand, which is right because it paid the money, but a combination of competition in the market and a board willing to take a risk, has produced a good deal for the game.