OPINION: Sponsorship Crisis is a Symptom of the TV Crisis

The decision by Investec to call an early end to their sponsorship of England men’s Tests, six years into a ten-year deal, has little direct relevance to the women’s game – our Tests (few and far between though they are) are sponsored by Kia. But with Waitrose having already pulled out of their England shirt-sponsorship agreement last year in similar circumstances, what started as a drama begins increasingly to look like a crisis.

Investec, like Waitrose before them, cited a diplomatic desire to “explore other options”, but you don’t have to scratch very far beneath the surface to get to the truth – cricket in England is increasingly marginalised – largely relegated from the back-pages to the back-streets of a pay-TV ghetto, where no top-dollar sponsor wants to be.

This is not to deny that the ECB’s ten-year waltz with Sky TV hasn’t benefited cricket, and the women’s game in particular, thanks to the huge influx of cash it has shovelled into the coffers at Lords. Without it we might not have central contracts or a Kia Super League. But this will all be for nothing if what was once the nation’s “second sport” continues its slide into irrelevance.

The simple fact is that, aside from a highly vocal “choir” of serious fans like us – those prepared to pay Sky’s shilling – no one watches cricket; and even the big crowds at a typical men’s Test seem to be there as much to catch-up with “the chaps” over a few beers, as for the cricket itself.

The ECB can (and do) quote participation figures; and point to advertising campaigns, such as the Girls Rule The World poster on the London Underground for the Women’s World Cup; but until some cricket is back on “proper” television, they are shouting into a growing void of public unconsciousness.

If they weren’t, the sponsors would be clamouring to extend their deals, not terminating them early.

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17 thoughts on “OPINION: Sponsorship Crisis is a Symptom of the TV Crisis

  1. To me this is a better argument for free terrestrial TV coverage of cricket, including women’s cricket than the “it will increase participation” one which depends on who watches what on what channel. On the surface it looks like the ECB might have no other choice but to go back to BBC/C4/C5 but who knows what they’ll come up with to avoid it, if they’re determined to persist with Sky only.

    On another note – Women’s Tests. Are there any planned this year? When is the next one – the next Ashes series?

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  2. Cricket is going down the pan in England…not one English male is in the Top 10 in the world currently for batting apart from Root, and only 2 bowlers in the Test Top 10. Not one is in the ODI or T20 Top 10. An ODI Captain that refuses to tour Bangladesh…more people watch non league football than your average county match…so who’s the beneficiary?? Guess…just like football, the players…

    An England Test Central Contract is worth £700,000 per year, plus bonuses for every test, ODI & T20. Only 4 Indian players have a Grade A Contract, and that is worth £150,000 plus bonuses (nothing on the scale of England). Who is the best cricket team in the world? The ones who have to win and entertain to earn their money….

    The same for the women’s game…England central Contract is about £55,000 a year, a figure the West Indian or Indian players can only dream of. Yet not one English Woman bat is currently ranked in the Top 5, and 2 in the Top 5 T20 bowling rankings….

    There’s something going seriously wrong with the game…put money into the grass roots and get people to watch…Channel 4 televised the best Ashes series ever….eventually SKY will ditch the sponsorship, and where will the womens game be then?

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    • An interesting perspective from classiccar. ECB’s stewardship of cricket of late has been too short-term profit oriented, sure. The points on more grassroots investment and terrestrial TV coverage being needed are widely accepted, but the other areas mentioned – I can’t say I agree with. Maybe it is a bit more applicable for the men’s game to say the players don’t need to perform all the time, where the England players simply play too much “Sky only” cricket so each match loses its meaning a bit and is too distant from too many people.

      For the women’s game, I don’t think paying the players a bit is a problem at all. The fact that Indian and West Indian players can only dream of a decent wage is hardly a feather in the cap of the BCCI or the WICB. The most glowing term you could use for it is “sustainable”. Australian players are even more well paid than ours and most would agree CA are in the best position overall. Are you trying to argue that the Indian and WI contract models are preferable? There are disadvantages to low wages, as well, even if you didn’t care about player welfare. What about the potential problems with loss to other occupations or worse still corruption that could potentially arise from not being paid sufficient wages?

      The best cricket teams in the world are the ones with the most talented players. It’s not something that can be simply invented out of whole cloth for International sides.

      Why is having players in the top ten (or five) batting or bowling rankings a measure of how good a team are anyway? Some teams rely only on a few outstanding individuals (England have in the past) whilst for others, it’s more of a collaborative effort. It depends who you have available and how they fit together. Robinson has made a point in his regime so far to try and reduce the reliance on certain individual players we had under Edwards, and improve the bunch as a whole, so you could even argue that was intentional.

      When people ask “where will the women’s game be when the funding is withdrawn?” – we already know the answer because it wasn’t so long ago that it was the case. The same (or very similar) players will play for England, they just won’t get paid and won’t be able to train as much so it will be harder for them to improve. Some players might leave the game eventually but others would stay, not for the hope the funding might return but simply because they love playing cricket and love playing for their country. If you had seen the effort they put in I would have thought that much was obvious, it’s more than a job to them…They will continue to be supported by the real fans come what may.

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  3. First things first Australia and the BBL & WBBL have shown how cricketing entertainment should be done and the T20 game is marketed to a family audience. Each franchise has to develop an academy approach and is not just about the overseas stars.

    We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking the women’s game is any stronger financially now, it still needs a huge investment and shares the sponsorship pot at all levels with a struggling men’s game.

    The ECB yet again seem to have suffered a sponsorship setback at a key time. Surely this summer cricket should be the ‘main show’ with two huge international cup competitions and an Ashes series in the winter.

    A new strategy seem essential but the ECB and counties seems inflexible, in a changing market place with a dwindling audience.

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  4. While not disagreeing with the sentiments we should be investing heavily in grass roots sports, your figures for what the England’s players earn compared to the Indians are way off.
    Your figures about what England’s female cricketers earn is also hugely inflated. The female game has moved forward but not that far yet.
    In terms of the Sponsorship changes, how do you know there is no one already in place to take over?
    There is rightly, a lot of concern in all National bodies about the loss of clubs in all sports as people start to look at other and often shorter leisure activities. Cricket is doing better than some sports but is still suffering.

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  5. I really don’t want to focus on pay, but a couple of quick facts. The figures i quoted are correct – even a cursory glance on official website and the internet will verify that. That English women cricketers have the highest central contracts is not the point – what is more interesting is that Cricket Australia are paying every female county player A$7,000 per annum, whereas county players here receive 0. Those that get picked for the WBBL get an extra A$17,000, so there is real incentive to compete and do well. I do not for a moment believe A$7000 is anything like enough to live on, but its a start. As soon as girls see there is money in a sport, they will naturally gravitate towards it.

    My point is not how much people are paid (money does not buy success), but that there is enough in it to generate the Aspiration for girls to want to keep playing beyond 16 years old. There is no reason why a girls should not be able to make a living out if playing sport, just as boys can. But this leads to my original point – they will only get their just deserts when people pay to watch them play…terrestrial TV is clearly of help, but more important is more women going to actually watch….and this is simply not happening

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    • Girls cannot make a living because, as you say, only the contracted players are paid and if they lose their contracts there is no paid County system to fall back into.
      I cannot see any future where County players or even KSL are paid a reasonable salary and where a girl could choose cricket as a viable career path.

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  6. Classiccar, I agree with everything you put in term of the sentiment of your argument.
    What I don’t like is when people quote salary figures as you have for the England Woman’s team which are way off just to justify a point. They shouldn’t be stated as fact unless they are.

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  7. I’d be very interested to see the links to the official site & others that Classic car refers to. Please enlighten…

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    • Sure there are loads of sites. ..espncricinfo is a good one and also this link http://www.totalsportek.com/money/women-cricket-salaries/
      This site has Australia England India and Pakistan. Just looking for WI SA NZ just for interest so if any one knows….Australian data is published by cricket Australia and you can follow the contract discussions and disagreements specifically regarding their women cricketers….
      My interest is not salaries. ..The market will decide though a helping hand for all women’s sport should be seen as a public good after years of neglect. ..what I am concerned about us why women don’t pay to watch women play sport. …

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      • That site is a bit misleading. There are several tiers of England contract, and £50,000 is at the very top end – most of the “contracted” players will not earn that this year.

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  8. The site is not accurate and sadly way off in terms of salary and bonuses. Unless it comes officially from the ECB as you claim the figures for the Australian players has, it can only be speculation.
    There has been to my knowledge, never been any official release of the salaries levels by the ECB. If anyone can find one it would be helpful to put it on this site.

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  9. I think it is pretty much accepted that the ECB have no interest in grass roots women’s cricket.
    The problem in getting more watching is that, in my experience, most of those at matches are players themselves (not like in the men’s game) and (given the pitifully small amount of matches available to play) would rather do that than watch. One problem is when the ECB keep putting on matches on league days – but of course we all know that women (even at the higher levels) can only get use of facilities when the men kindly allow them, which is usually Sundays.
    I recall one County U15 match which was cancelled with all players present because the men’s Sunday team wanted the pitch. At another club the ladies had to play at 9am on Sunday and be off the pitch by 1, that team has since folded.

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    • Lots of talk that tickets for the ICC World Cup are selling well. Is that the final or the provincial matches as well. I expect the crowd will include a lot of first time attendees due to the relatively high profile marketing.

      Just a thought does anyone know if there are women’s league games scheduled for 23rd July?

      The big participation push ironically will only happen across this season and next.

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      • The ECB have requested leagues to leave July 23 free, but it isn’t compulsory. Looking at Play Cricket only 2 of the 5 leagues funded by the ECB as women’s regional leagues have published their fixtures. Midlands League are complying with the request. Cheshire League, we’re not for a variety of reasons, not least because it’s a long way from Lord’s and England might not be in the final anyway.

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