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Collier fears for grassroots cricket

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David Collier spoke to ECBtv about the TV listings review

ECB chief executive David Collier insists the growth of cricket in England and Wales will be lost if today’s recommendation that home Ashes Tests be reserved for free-to-air television is approved.

An independent panel chaired by David Davies has proposed home series between England and Australia from 2016 be returned to the Government’s list of ‘crown jewel’ sporting events.

That would preclude pay-TV broadcasters such as BSkyB, who currently own the rights, from screening matches exclusively to subscribers.

Sky last year paid £220million to renew their exclusive arrangement with the ECB to show live home Tests until the end of 2013.

The ECB now fear being forced to sell only to free-to-air broadcasters would lead to a damaging drop in revenue.

Collier cited the impressive participation figures since Sky first screened all England home Tests in 2006.

He told ECBtv: “The fact is that the participation levels in England, measured through our focus clubs, have increased by over 20% in each of the last two years and our women’s game has increased by 49%, our disabilities game by 140%.

“That is a sport that is thriving and is healthy. The reason why it’s thriving and healthy is that we’ve been able to invest in facilities and in coaches. Sport England’s ethos is ‘sustain and grow’. You cannot sustain without investment.

Sky Sports

Sky has shown all England home Tests since the summer of 2006 and will do so until at least 2013

“We should be saying that we have a proud track record over the last few years of investing in our community sport, our women’s cricket, our disabilities cricket has made huge strides.

“Our investment in facilities through the county clubs has been fantastic.”

Collier also highlighted the financial implications for other sports that have been added to the ‘crown jewel’ list and urged Ben Bradshaw, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to consider the effect it could have on cricket.

“The report itself outlines the fact that for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and for Rugby League, that their revenues fell by 40 per cent to 75 per cent when those events were listed,” he argued.

“We believe that that’s a similar sort of figure for cricket should the Ashes be listed.

“Now that has dramatic and disastrous consequences for the investment of the game at all levels, and therefore that’s why we’ve urged the Secretary of State to look very carefully at that economic impact study.”

ECB chairman Giles Clarke also expressed his concern at the report and suggested free-to-air TV companies would not be able to broadcast the Ashes, citing the BBC’s perceived failure to bid for the current rights.

“From our point of view it’s positively ludicrous,” he said. “What is the point of listing a 25-day Test series when the broadcaster didn’t want to list it and won’t broadcast it?

“Then it won’t be on anything at all, so it’s not exactly a listed event.”

He added: “This is a poor report, it’s fundamentally flawed. There’s a lot of sports, not just cricket, who are distinctly concerned with the way this is going.”