MUMBAI: The outbreak and spread of COVID-19 over the last two months, one that has affected cricket across the globe as much as any other sport, is snowballing into a catastrophe of heavy, irreparable proportions.
Should there be no cricket played between now and the end of the year, which is a possibility the industry is getting increasingly wary about, it will lead certain cricket boards – read: Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa, among others – to sizeable, inevitable bankruptcy.
The broadcast rights of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) – held by Ten Sports (Sony Pictures) have come to an end. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), that had sold its world media rights for six years in 2014 for an approximate US$20m (around Rs 140 crore in today’s exchange), is due to renew its broadcast deal this very month (April). Cricket South Africa (CSA) have a standing arrangement to host a three-match India series later this year which is also now under serious threat.
Should cricket remain absent from the calendar over the next six months, these boards run the risk of a massive economic and financial failure.
“Simply put, other than India and to an extent England, the rest of the cricket world will be on a hand-to-mouth existence if this scenario continues,” a leading cricket industry executive told TOI on Friday.
SLC has brought out a tender at least on six occasions in the past couple of months, including the India tour scheduled in July which is already beginning to look like a non-starter. “Nobody, not a single party (read: bidder) has shown interest,” say those in the know.
The WICB has been in the market from January this year after their existing broadcast deal with Ten ended last year, and again, they don’t have anyone on board.
PCB, which already lost out on revenue with the Pakistan Super League (PSL) being called off mid-way, to happens to be in the same boat as Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
Bangladesh cricket, otherwise a sustainable property, will sit without a broadcaster and sponsors once their existing deal runs out by April end.
“In CSA’s case it’s a bit different. After Graeme Smith took over as the director there, he visited India and discussed an arrangement where India would tour SA for a three-match series in August or September. Now, that doesn’t look like a possibility, even though they have a leading Indian broadcaster on board,” sources add.
It is a grim reality that these cricket boards are facing right now. Those in the know further say, the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), which gets hosted between September and October every year, is also on the verge of getting cancelled.
“Where will these boards earn from? The only other avenue to make up for the losses was through participation money in an ICC tournament, for instance, the T20 World Cup. Each country earns a participation fee of around US$5m (approx. Rs 35 cr) or a little more than that from an ICC tournament. If T20 gets cancelled, they’ll lose this money too. The Asia Cup is unlikely to be held, so PCB – whose turn it was to host it – will end up losing substantially once again,” sources added.
At a time when the world seems to be worried about the status of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and the damage it will do to the BCCI coffers, the industry is yet to wake up and smell the coffee globally. “These boards will simply perish. How will they even honour their central contracts? No deals are going to happen this year, that’s certain,” the industry executive sums it up.
Should the virus outbreak relent in some months from now and live cricket return to television, it’s not a misnomer anymore that the IPL will take precedence over every other property, barring India’s tour of Australia.
“That’s one of the reasons Sri Lanka say they’re willing to host the IPL. Because they have no cricket left. If cricket doesn’t resume until the end of monsoons, why would the IPL be played out of the country? These are hypothetical scenarios that people are discussing,” sources say.
To fulfil player contracts and pay registered cricketers their retainer/salaries will be the biggest of headaches for most of these cricket boards. With broadcasters staying away, sponsors backing out and ICC events getting cancelled, the road ahead clearly seem to be a troubled one for now.
No word from ICC on COVID yet
Member boards of the ICC aren’t saying this openly yet but questions seem to be flying around already about what the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) contribution to COVID-19 is going to be?
The ICC hasn’t said a word yet on making any contribution towards its full or associate member in the backdrop of the virus outbreak. As member boards face potential bankruptcy and the grim possibility of not being able to pay their cricketers, they’re yet to hear from the governing body.
TOI understands that at least three members of the ICC expect the parent body to act in the wake of the crisis and are also expected to write to them in this regard.
“Shouldn’t the ICC be saying something in these distressing times other than talking about men and women’s cricket rights?” say two leading board members.
Broadcast rights that have ended: SLC, WICB, PCB (all Sony Pictures / Ten Sports); BCB (Sporty Solutionz sublet to ROW)
Tenders scheduled to come out in 2021-22
A) IPL starting 2023, B) ICC global rights for 2023-31 cycle; C) BCCI bilateral rights starting 2023; D) ECB bilateral rights (2024)
CRICKET SCHEDULE FOR 2020 THAT NOW RUNS THE RISK OF NOT BEING PLAYED
1) West Indies tour of England; 2) Australia tour of Bangladesh (no broadcaster); 3) Pakistan tour of England; 4) India tour of Sri Lanka (no broadcaster); 5) South Africa tour of West Indies (no broadcaster); 6) India tour of Australia (heading into 2021)
A) Ireland vs Zimbabwe (no broadcaster); B) Bangladesh vs Ireland; C) New Zealand vs Scotland; D) Pakistan vs Netherlands (no broadcaster); E) New Zealand vs West Indies (no broadcaster); F) Australia vs England; G) Ireland vs England; H) India vs South Africa (proposed)
* T20 World Cup
* 10 scheduled bilateral arrangements