Aussie broadcasters call for structural change


Australian broadcasters, Channel Nine and Network Ten have warned that the product of international cricket risks being devalued if scheduling issues and clashes with domestic T20 competitions are not resolved.

Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, has been a vocal supporter of radical change to the structure of international cricket.

A number of cricket boards have come out in  opposition to changes to the structure of, in particular Test cricket, most notably the BCCI has opposed any move to split Test cricket into two divisions.

Sutherland responded: "We are conscious of some of the comments we've read in the media recently, but as far as I can see, those comments have been overmuch sharply focused on the concept of two divisions for Test cricket,

"This issue is far broader than that single issue around two divisions. We're talking about three formats, we're talking about a structure from which our corporate partners, our fans and our media partners can all understand the three formats, when they're played and why they're played.

"There's so much more to it before you consider options or alternatives around a commercial model that might see some bundling of rights. As far as I can see, the opposition has been overmuch limited to that issue of divisions around Test cricket.

"That may or may not be a big issue – I certainly don't see that as being the biggest issue. We've got broad acceptance and alignment around the ICC table, certainly from the chief executives, the need for that context and structure is clearly there.

"I would add that during the conference, we had representatives of our two free-to-air media partners in a panel discussion and they certainly roundly endorsed the concept of international cricket being clearer around structure and context.

"They saw that as being better for their viewers, cricket fans and their business as a whole. That in itself was a pretty compelling argument, I felt, for us to continue down this path."

A method of bypassing the financial impact of playing in Test crickets second-tier would be to pool broadcasting rights money but it seems this is unlikely to appease naysayers.

Sutherland continued: "We like to think we're very understanding of that and hearing everyone's thoughts and views on that,

"I understand the temptation to come back and focus on this as a single hurdle issue – there's so much more to it than that and I think it all needs to be put in much greater context.

"If that is an obstacle, then we need to work through that, but at the same time, those that do see it as an obstacle also need to see a bigger picture about the benefits of having some structure and looking at an alternative commercial model for bilateral rights.

"The reality is that we have three formats the game, we also have emerging T20 competitions where there is high demand for cricket product around the world, and, at times, we're selling against ourselves. At times, we're seeing a diminution in the value of rights.

"Part of the reason for that research tells us, this is not just us sticking our finger in the air and guessing about it, is because international cricket – Tests, One-Day cricket and T20 internationals – doesn't have the context that the fans are looking for to really understand.

"That each match has real purpose and meaning and context to some sort of league ladder, like the vast majority of sporting competitions played around the world. That's where we see the benefit and the big picture."