Live international cricket is set to return to free-to-air television as part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new proposed broadcast deal from 2020, according to tender documents leaked to The Times.
A report in the newspaper on Wednesday morning provided remarkable detail contained in seven rights packages which it reveals have been sent to all leading broadcasters.
Package 3, exclusively for free-to-air television, contains two men’s Twenty20 international matches per season, one women’s Twenty20 and 10 – rather than the previously-suggested eight – fixtures in the ECB’s new city-based Twenty20 tournament, and up to eight in the women’s Super League.
The ECB had already broadly indicated a timeline for decisions to be made and an announcement on the new broadcast and streaming deals by this mid-summer.
But the Times report spells out a much more specific timeline for bids to be received and considered – including a one-hour window for submissions from broadcasters on the morning of June 28 2017 and then notification of an agreement on all packages over the following two days.
Live international cricket has not been broadcast in this country since Channel 4 covered the bulk of England’s famous 2005 Ashes victory – since when Sky has held all rights, including most recently in a £75million-a-year deal which is about to be superseded.
Sky can once again be expected to be a leading player alongside BT Sport for the international package, which the document stipulates will be one of three available for bids from all pay-per-view and free-to-air broadcasters. The other two are a package dedicated solely to new Twenty20 competitions and a range of highlights programmes.
Aside from the live coverage being offered to free-to-air broadcasters, the same companies are also invited to bid for all international highlights.
The BBC, which has not shown live international cricket since the last millennium but has since retained a significant broadcast presence through its Test Match Special radio coverage, is likely to find itself competing with rival bids from Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV and American cable company Discovery – through its free-to-air Quest channel.
The ECB, who confirmed in a statement last week that the bid process for the new deals to run from 2020 to the end of 2024 was under way and that non-disclosure agreements were stipulated to all parties, has declined to comment on the leaking of the documents or their contents.
Bangladesh will provide the highest level of security for Australia’s cricketers when they tour in August-September, organisers said on Wednesday, after a spate of recent Islamist attacks.
“What is usually reserved for a visiting head of state will be provided to them,” Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury told AFP.
He made the comments as Cricket Australia’s head of security Sean Carroll visited Dhaka to oversee plans for the tour, during which Australia are scheduled to play two Tests.
Australia have not played a Test in the country since Ricky Ponting’s team visited Dhaka in 2006, just six years after Bangladesh were granted Test status.
Australia were scheduled to play two Tests in Bangladesh in October 2015 but the tour was cancelled amid security fears after attacks by Islamist extremists in the Muslim-majority nation.
Australia also refused to send their junior team to last year’s Under-19 World Cup in Dhaka.
Bangladesh successfully hosted the England cricket team last year, drawing the Test series 1-1.
“We have guaranteed that the security, which was given to England cricket team last year, similar arrangement will be made for the Australian team,” Chowdhury said.
“If there is any additional requirement needed, we are ready to provide that.”
Carroll visited Bangladesh in October during England’s month-long tour which came just months after an attack on a Dhaka cafe in which 22 people, mostly foreigners, were killed.
Bangladesh home minister and top security and police chiefs briefed Carroll on the planned steps for the tour on Tuesday.
“We are looking forward to working with the Bangladesh authorities and BCB to making sure there is very successful tour going ahead in August,” Carroll told reporters.
He said they were “satisfied” with Bangladesh’s security plans for England last year and were now working to ensure a “rigorous security plan” for Australia.
England spinner Gareth Batty warns there may soon be a “breaking point” in this country, as in Australia, over players’ pay structures.
A dispute down under has escalated to the point that Australia vice-captain David Warner is suggesting next winter’s Ashes series could be in danger.
Strike action appears to be a possible next step if Cricket Australia cannot agree an updated payment policy which is acceptable to all parties before a deadline at the end of next month.
Surrey captain Batty does not envisage a stand-off of that magnitude in England, but does believe the advent of a new high-profile Twenty20 tournament for eight city-based teams in 2020 may help to raise the stakes.
Asked about the developing situation in Australia on talkSPORT2, the veteran off-spinner said: “I think we could have a problem in this country as well with the new franchise [Twenty20 competition] and all the money from the TV deals.
“It’s fundamentally the same thing that will happen here, I’m pretty sure of that.
“There are already a lot of murmurs around the professional game.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board hopes to receive significant extra revenue from prospective broadcast deals from its new tournament, and Batty advises players will be well aware of the extra funds available.
He added: “Potentially the players are seen as the prize – that’s who the people pay to go and watch – and yet the ECB want to have their cake and eat it.
“I think we could have a very real problem, as Australia are having now.
“The world is changing quickly in cricket, because of Twenty20, because of the IPL [Indian Premier League], because of the volume of money …
“There are breaking points, and Australia have obviously hit their breaking point. I don’t think we’re too far off our breaking point …”