Believe it or not, I don’t have a problem with paying for cricket! Despite my campaign for the 2017 Women’s World Cup in England to be made available on Free-To-Air TV, I’d be delighted to reach into my wallet for a half-decent stream of England Women’s up-coming tour to New Zealand; and although I’ll almost-certainly be at the games, I’d otherwise be happy to pay Sky to watch next summer’s Women’s Ashes in England.
But… I do have two major issues with Sky Cricket: exclusivity and bundling.
Sky quite literally "own" cricket in this country - there will be no live cricket shown on Free-To-Air TV next year, meaning kids can’t/ don’t watch, and the game is slowly painting itself into a very nichey corner.
But this isn’t the biggest problem with exclusivity: it’s that even when Sky don’t want to show the games, no one else is able to do so. To be fair, Sky gave the ECB special dispensation to live-stream 3 women’s ODIs last summer, but really it needs to be codified into the contract, so that if Sky don’t want to show (to quote just one example) the group stages of the Women’s World T20, someone else can.
Additionally, it is vital that some cricket (men’s and women’s) is made available Free-To-Air - and the World Cup seems a reasonable place to start with that - after all, the football World Cup is an ‘A Listed’ event, and that doesn’t seem to have caused it to have collapsed into financial penury and irrelevance!
A Sky subscription with Sky Sports costs around £45 a month. That’s a lot of money when you add it all up over the year; but at least it goes to fund grass roots cricket… right?
Well… sort of!
Sky do pay the ECB a chunk of cold, hard cash, some of which goes to grass roots cricket; BUT... of your £45 Sky sub, less than a fiver (a lot less) actually goes to cricket - most of it goes to football, for which Sky pay over a billion pounds a year - an order of magnitude more than the £100m they pay to cricket. So while your Sky subscription is supporting grass roots cricket… it’s supporting Wayne Rooney & Co. a lot, lot more!
This is where the government and the courts might need to step in once again. Sky really shouldn’t be able to get away with this - making the purchase of a monopoly product (cricket) dependent upon the purchase of another (near) monopoly product (football) is surely bordering upon market abuse?
So, here's the deal Sky: I'd happily pay £15 a month, to watch all the England internationals - men's and women's. Under such circumstances, almost everyone would be better off - Sky would have another subscriber; the ECB would get their cut; and I'd be able to legally watch cricket at home. The only person who wouldn't be better off is Wayne Rooney, but... frankly... who's Wayne Rooney?