Cricket: BBC in talks to show live cricket on TV for first time since 1998

Evening Standard
BBC in talks to show live cricket on TV for first time since 1998
BBC in talks to show live cricket on TV for first time since 1998

The BBC is in talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board about a return for live cricket to the channel for the first time in nearly two decades.

While the official line from the corporation is that “we don’t comment on sports rights or any speculation on rights”, director general Lord Hall has already met the ECB’s top brass for lengthy talks about potentially bidding for the rights to show the new city-based Twenty20 format. The BBC last hosted live cricket in 1998, while there has been no live coverage on terrestrial television for 11 years.

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A BBC insider told The Times: “The BBC is interested in airing the T20 tournament and would like to ensure that it gives cricket a proper platform, as it did for the FA Cup. The BBC would like interest in cricket to take off across the country, particularly for school-age children, so that the next generation take to cricket in the same way as when we fostered interest in the FA Cup.”

Both The Oval and Lord’s will be central to the event, with two sides from the capital — North and South — among the eight city teams taking part. None of the counties are currently allowed to comment on the proposals under ECB rules following yesterday’s meeting between the ECB and county bosses in Marylebone.

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Middlesex’s executive board were meeting throughout the course of the day to discuss proposals but neither county in the capital looks likely to pose any great opposition, despite Surrey being outspoken against it in the past over potential concerns about the impact of the format and a city-based side playing under a different name at The Oval.

The counties have been offered at least £1.3million a year for five years, a strong sweetener to the deal when collectively £120m in debt, to agree to the constitutional changes required for the tournament to go ahead.

The ECB, who are meeting at Lord’s today to trigger a postal vote in a bid to effect those changes, believe the English competition will rival the Indian Premier League and Big Bash in Australia.

In all, 36 games will be played over 38 days in July and August from 2020. All of them will be televised, potentially on the BBC in some format, although not all matches are expected to be on free-to-air television.

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