Cricket: MacLaurin prepared for satellite TV coverage of Tests

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The Independent Online
Lord's could be heading for conflict with fans if Lord MacLaurin has his way as he attempts to boost the game's finances.

The chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board wants coverage of England's home Test matches to be put out to tender, with rights going to the highest bidder.

At present, subscription channels are not allowed to secure the live rights but, if the bidding was opened up, there would be a strong chance of the BBC being outbid by Sky, which already broadcasts live coverage of overseas Tests, one-day matches and the Benson and Hedges Cup.

MacLaurin is intending to lobby government to have the existing regulations scrapped, so that cricket can follow football in capitalising fully on its marketability.

In an article in the Financial Times, MacLaurin said: "With more than pounds 300m required to fund the first-class and recreational game, cricket is far from wealthy. Manchester United Football Club have an annual income far in excess of the ECB's total budget.

"At a time when television has become the sport's prime source of revenue, all the ECB seeks is the right to strike a balance for cricket between exposure and revenue, as other sports' governing bodies have shown it is both possible and vital to do."

The main objection to such a move could well come from fans. They could be obliged to pay for a subscription channel in order to continue to enjoy watching the game at the highest level. At present, all England's home international cricket can be seen for the price of the annual licence fee.

MacLaurin thinks removing such games from the list of protected, prime events would simply enable the ECB to negotiate a fair price for television rights. He suggested that matches like the Lord's Test could still be protected.

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