The main item on the agenda for the two-day ICC chief executives meeting, starting in Dubai on Tuesday, is the two-tier Test format. The BCCI would oppose it. Centralised marketing of the global broadcast rights of bilateral tours, too, could be up for discussion. And once again, the Indian cricket board is going to disagree.
Back in April, the ICC had come up with the idea of making a radical overhaul of the existing procedure of selling the global broadcast rights of bilateral tours. As per the proposal, once the current cycle of TV rights ends for respective Full Members, each board will place its overseas rights to a common pool, which, in turn, would be sold collectively with the revenue being distributed among the contributing cricket boards.
For example, if India are hosting England, the BCCI would sell the broadcast rights for its territory and take the entire revenue but the global rights of the series goes to a pool that already has the overseas rights of other bilateral series. So if a broadcaster wants to buy the global rights of the India-England series, it will have to purchase the rights in a bundle that might feature other bilateral series as well. The ICC wants to do it with an eye to feed the weaker cricket nations as also to make inroads into untapped markets. A committee comprising the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Cricket Australia (CA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), New Zealand Cricket (NZC) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is said to be working on it, but the global body is going to face strong resistance from the game’s only superpower, India.
“Unfortunately, now the BCCI is being deprived of a seat in the (ICC) finance committee. When 70 per cent of the ICC’s income is coming from the BCCI, then why should we not have a place in the finance committee? We got shunted in this whole ‘independent’ business. There’s no question of domination, but are you trying to be a Robin Hood or what; to rob the rich and give it to the poor!” a BCCI office-bearer told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity.
The Indian cricket board opposes the centralised marketing of broadcast rights of bilateral tours on the ground that a bilateral series is a “bilateral agreement” between two cricket playing nations. So how does the ICC come into the picture in terms of selling TV rights? Also, why shall the revenue be shared equally among all the members? The BCCI believes the changed structure would be a “losing proposition” and the amount of loss would vary from series to series. The cricket board gets Rs 43 crore from Star Sports for an international match in India and global rights are separate. For global rights, the host broadcaster invites tenders, and subject to a no-objection from host board, the rights are sold to at least two other Test-playing nations apart from the countries involved in the bilateral series.
As for the two-tier Test system with promotion and relegation, the ICC wants to do it to reinvigorate the longest format, while doing away with sterile bilateral contests. The world body proposes Test status to countries like Ireland, Afghanistan and Nepal to play in the lower rung. “We have to create a proper competition structure which provides promotion and relegation and opportunities to get to the top,” ICC Chief Executive David Richardson had said.
Sri Lanka were first to oppose the idea, to be followed by Bangladesh. And now BCCI president Anurag Thakur has said his board wants to “protect the interests” of lower-ranked member nations. “The BCCI is against the two-tier Test system because the smaller countries will lose out and the BCCI wants to take care of them,” Thakur had been quoted as saying.
Players’ global body FICA, however, has backed the idea, claiming that 72 per cent of players quizzed for the organisation’s annual survey supported the two-tier format. But the Indian cricket board is not a member of the FICA, and without the support of the cricket’s biggest power, the proposal might fall flat. The centralised marketing of the global rights of bilateral series, too, might become redundant in that case. The issues are interlinked.
Point of contention: Overseas TV rights issue
Back in April, the ICC had come up with the idea of making a radical overhaul of the existing procedure of selling the global broadcast rights of bilateral tours.
Present structure: Host board sells rights of a bilateral series, or for a particular period, to a particular broadcaster for home and away. The host board gets a particular amount from the broadcaster for the telecast rights for its own territory and also overseas. The broadcaster then invites tenders for overseas rights and sells it to other broadcasters. For global rights, telecast must reach at least two other Test-playing nations apart from the countries involved in a bilateral series.
Proposed change by the ICC: All overseas broadcast rights from respective cricket boards will come to a common pool. The world body will market the global broadcast rights from the pool in a bundle. For example, if a broadcaster wants to buy the global rights of an India-England series, it might have to purchase the overseas rights of Zimbabwe-Bangladesh series or Sri Lanka-West Indies series as well. Revenue earned from marketing would be shared equally among the contributing boards. The ICC wants to start the process following the culmination of the present TV rights cycle of the Full Member nations. -ENS