Cricket World Cup: TV money the 'reason for smaller tournament,' says ICC chief executive

David Richardson claims there is little chance of reversing the decision to reduce the 2019 and 2023 events to 10 teams

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The Independent Online

The ICC chief executive David Richardson has admitted television demands are behind the controversial decision to reduce the size of the 2019 and 2023 World Cups to 10 teams from 14. He had previously suggested the decision was driven by a desire to ensure the tournament was played between “evenly matched and competitive” teams.

There was an outcry at the reduction from many leading former players, as well as the associate cricketing nations who would miss out.

However, Richardson has confirmed: “We have gone to market based on a 10-team World Cup.” Last year the rights for the 2015-2023 cycle of ICC events were sold to ESPN Star Sports partly on the basis of guaranteeing India nine games, as Richardson now admits. “That’s one of the factors, yes. The increase in the revenue is significant and everyone gets the benefit of that. It looks very difficult to change that for 2019.”

The MCC World Cricket Committee – on which Richardson sits – recently recommended the World Cup include 12 teams rather than 10. But Richardson does not envisage a U-turn at the ICC’s board meeting in October. “There will be an opportunity to discuss it at the next round of meetings but I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes unduly raised. The bottom line is we have sold the rights based on 10 teams.”

However, associate nations might be heartened by Richardson’s comment that the World T20 format after 2016 is under review. He suggested associate qualifiers might be placed straight in the main draw alongside all the Test nations, rather than have to advance through a first round against the bottom two full members. “The format of the World Twenty20 is not cast in stone. It might change to where you don’t have the first round being a qualifying round for the second round,” Richardson said. He also revealed the ICC is trying to ensure that a fund, to help pay for more one-day internationals for Ireland and Afghanistan, is passed at the board meeting in October.

Richardson expressed his concern about the dependence of the world game on India, and said he hoped more would be done to expand the game into new frontiers. “We are too reliant on revenue generated out of India. That’s a problem for the game. If we can open up new markets, be it the USA, in Europe or whoever, then there’s no reason why we can’t take major global events to those markets.”

His words suggest that, while all major ICC events until 2023 are being held exclusively in Australia, England or India, Richardson will push for that to change. However, it is unclear whether the representatives of the BCCI and ECB, in particular, will prove amenable to hosting fewer marquee events.

Prior to the World T20 qualifiers, which conclude in Ireland this week, players from associates had considered wearing black armbands to mark the death of associate cricket, the latest sign of their fury about their treatment.

“I don’t think that correctly reflects the situation,” Richardson said, on account of the $300m (£192m) spent by the ICC on the 95 associate and affiliate nations every eight years.

Meanwhile, it is believed the ICC’s anti-corruption and security unit is investigating Hong Kong’s victory over Afghanistan in the World T20 qualifier in Dublin for unusual betting patterns. Hong Kong scored 16 off the final over of the match to qualify for the World T20 in India next year. The ICC declined to comment.