No don’t turn away or look at something else, cricket is one of this countries’ national sports, the other being that one where a ball is footed around, but more of that later. England won the first test in a five match series against Australia, if you hate cricket or sports in general, that result will mean nothing to you. The 2nd test at Lords has just started, and I’m watching it on my television. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but I’m not watching it on Sky, not directly anyway.
Let me explain; a chap called Rupert Murdoch owns the company (it used to be called News International, but I’m not sure what now), which also owns Sky television. Years ago, the BBC owned the rights to transmit live cricket, but lost out (not sure when) to Sky, who paid an enormous sum of money to show test cricket around the world. Now I’m not condemning the Beeb, they lost it fair and square, BUT, and here’s the rub, they won the right to broadcast Wimbledon, and after another tussle with Sky, the rugby 6 nations championships. Although to be fair, it was only the England home matches of the latter that Sky held on to. So while the Wales, Scotland and Ireland matches could be watched on BBC, only the England ‘away’ matches could be shown, until a few seasons ago when they could. Anyway enough of the history lesson, what’s the situation today? Well the BBC have gleefully just announced that they have the rights to all FA cup matches, including the final from season 2014-15. Of course they still have the ubiquitous Match of the Day, which ruins Saturday night. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I don’t like football. The BBC (our national broadcaster) spend loads of money on bloody football and tennis, but zilch on cricket. Why is this? Well for a start if you want ‘the works’ on Sky Sports, you have to pay £43.50 for the privilege. This includes all sports channels, and the F1 racing car channel, another excuse for a certain F1 owner to line his pockets. There is no lesser ‘package’ so that cost includes all league football, cricket and some, though not six nations, rugby. If, like me, you can’t stand football and its overpaid, preening, grabbing players and all the useless management of what should be ‘a beautiful game’, that turns it into a sordid circus, then you would begrudge paying £43 for a sport that you would never watch. And I do, so don’t, pay that is, but I still watch the live cricket. How is that you ask? There are several, perfectly legal, websites which stream the live cricket. It’s just a matter of finding them. I’m not sure about the legality of watching Sky without paying for it, but in my mind, Sky and the cricketing authorities get enough money without adding to it. Yet, the BBC are quite willing to spend a vast amount of money on football, but nothing on the other national game: cricket. Even when England won the last Ashes series, there was only sparse reports on TV news. If England (not that it would ever happen) football got into the world cup final, I would guess they would sell Television Centre again to pay for it. It was the same when the BRITISH Lions won the latest Lions series in Australia. A magnificent feat, but how much of it was shown on terrestrial TV? A couple of minutes of highlights. Disgraceful, but I suspect that this was because despite being the British Lions, it does include players from Eire, so that probably discounts any coverage. I have a theory about this: football and other sports are deemed by some to be of a ‘lower’ class of game than say rugby and cricket, and the politically correct bosses want to see that they pandering to the masses who watch ‘the beautiful game’. When you see the antics of the millionaire football league players, many foreign, and compare them to slightly less paid, but perhaps less likely to misbehave cricketers, I think the latter win out every time. On the other hand it could be because the greedy sports authorities want the maximum dollar for their sports to be shown, and the poor old punter is the one who has to have deep pockets. Fair comment that they want the maximum, but why sell out to only one provider? Simples! Because Sky charge you an extra amount for showing sports, but the TV licence stays the same. So IF sports coverage was shared, obviously everyone would opt for the cheaper, i.e. free service. Unless the BBC could only show the matches in normal vision and Sky have the rights to show in 3D, HD or whatever and you then pay the extra for that privilege. Doubt if anyone will take up that idea though. With the BBC now having 4 TV channels, surely some sports could be shown on BBC3 or BBC4? No, it won’t happen. Why am I banging on about this? Well my neighbour and friend is nearly 92 and still very agile and lively of brain. She loves her rugby and cricket, but as a pensioner do you think she could afford £43.50 to be able to watch test cricket? No of course not, she has other things to spend her money on, like living. But why should she be excluded from her favourite sports because of cost? She gets a reduced TV licence, and you could argue that the cricket is on Radio 5X. Doesn’t wash I’m afraid, cricket is best watched, not listened to, unless you are in your car. I doubt whether the administrators, booking agents, negotiators, and television executives think about ‘the little old lady’, but in my view, they should. The greed of everyone involved in the distribution and broadcasting of major sports need to have a rethink about their audience and make it fairer for every sports fan to watch what they want, without it costing a fortune. Rant over.