Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, launched a scathing attack on the BBC yesterday in the wake of the ECB announcing it had agreed a £300m deal with Sky television for coverage of live cricket in this country.
"I think now is the time for a real debate on the future of public sector sports broadcasting," said Clarke, who revealed that the BBC had not submitted a bid for the broadcast rights from 2010 to 2013, which includes 26 test matches and 46 one-day internationals.
"There are 19 million people who are interested in cricket in this country. They buy TV licences and surely they should have a right to expect that public sector broadcasters mount bids for the nation's summer sport, as they do, in the case of one of them, for 12 other sports.
"If the BBC is to remain part of this, it must answer to the millions of cricket fans in England and Wales, [and explain] how it prioritises its investment."
But the BBC responded by saying: "The BBC is astonished by the comments from the ECB. We always said any bid for live test cricket was subject to value for money and the ability to schedule it. In our view neither of these criteria were met.
"We have consistently argued that not having cricket as a listed event puts it out of reach of all terrestrial broadcasters ... it is absurd to blame the BBC for this outcome." Ironically the BBC is favourite to win the live broadcast rights for radio.
The listed event status protects major sporting spectacles such as the Olympics and states that they must be offered to free-to-air broadcasters at a "fair and reasonable price". Cricket was removed from the list in 1998.
But the ECB insisted that they remained flexible throughout the tendering process, claiming that they would even consider selling off the rights for a single test in a series if necessary.
Clarke revealed that no terrestrial broadcasters had made a bid, saying: "We made it extremely clear that we were prepared to consider anything from terrestrial broadcasters."
He implied that terrestrial broadcasters could never compete with the likes of Sky when saying: "We had bids last time round from terrestrial television that frankly just would not have enabled us to create the sport we have created over the last four years."
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