Why an autumn tournament? Millions of reasons

Click to follow

Critics who ridiculed staging the Champions Trophy in England in early autumn have been firmly reprimanded. Tim Lamb, the departing chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, effectively accused the detractors of failing to grasp economic reality.

Although the tournament has struggled on, with all but one game being properly played to a finish, the wisdom of doing so has been doubted. The fact that several games have been played in half-empty grounds has been cited as evidence that it ought to have been played in August and that 25 one-day internationals in the country in one season has been too many.

"The ECB makes around £48m a year from our current television deal for home Test matches and one-day internationals," Lamb said. "The Champions Trophy will make us £1.2m which is by no means to be sniffed at but cannot compare.

"To move our own competitions to later in the season was hardly feasible. I have said from the first day I took on this job and I will say it on the last that we are a game within a business not a business within a game. We forget that at our peril. Anyway, the Champions Trophy has always been held at this time of year."

It was as near as Lamb has come to a parting shot in a job he leaves next Thursday. Throughout his seven-year tenure he has always chosen his words carefully, practising diplomacy rather than controversy. But he is adamant that staging the Trophy in high summer would have been fiscal madness, however well England did.

His successor has still to be selected, with a short list of nine. This is, of course, top secret but the name of Paul Downton, the former England wicketkeeper who now has a prominent position in a City bank, keeps being mentioned. Downton has kept in close touch with the game by being chairman of the Middlesex cricket committee and was to be seen last week taking copious notes at the launch of the report by the sports lobbying group, Sport Nexus, calling for wholesale changes in the running of cricket. He would be a popular choice. Interviews are being held this week.

Whoever takes the job will not be in position in time to have any influence over the November tour to Zimbabwe, the wrangling over which eventually helped to persuade Lamb to resign. He denies that it was any more than a factor.

As he defended the need to protect the ECB's broadcasting partners, talks over the next rights contract were going beyond the exploratory stage. Giles Clarke, the millionaire businessman who is chairman of the marketing advisory committee, has been leading the negotiations. He said last week that he does not expect to make an announcement until October. Although Clarke, an outspoken character, has said that he would not exclude selling the rights entirely to a satellite broadcaster, he is also astute enough to recognise that this would not necessarily be in the game's best interests. Indeed, there is a strong feeling in some ECB quarters that getting the game back on BBC TV would be advisable.

Channel 4 have covered the game excellently and are keen to renew. But the fact is that they are not the BBC. The BBC would struggle to find space for Test coverage on their two main channels because of their commitment to other sports, but might be keen on some one-day internationals, a feeling entirely reciprocated.

It continues to annoy the ECB that BBC Television hardly mention cricket in their sports coverage, apparently still miffed at losing the rights last time. Cricket officials see it as one of the greatest examples of taking your bat home.

Comments