Sky promises FTA Cricket World Cup final... if England involved
Sky, the UK pay-television operator, has agreed to make live coverage of the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup final available free-to-air, but only if England make it that far.
Sky, which holds exclusive live rights to the competition, had come under pressure to widen access to the climax at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on 14 July, after hosts and pre-tournament favourites England made it through to the last four this week.
There were doubts the broadcaster would accede to this demand, but it announced today that the final will be shown on a free-to-air platform if England win through in their semi-final against either Australia or India at Edgbaston in Birmingham next Thursday.
It is understood that talks are taking place with Channel 4, the UK commercial broadcaster that is already showing highlights of the competition.
In a statement, Stephen van Rooyen, the chief executive of Sky UK and Ireland, said: "We are proud to be the broadcaster for a home Cricket World Cup, one of the world’s biggest and most exciting sporting events. Our aim has always been to celebrate what could be a once-in-a-generation moment of a home team in a big final on home soil.
“So if England reach the final we will make the match available to everyone so the whole country can be part of a rare and special big sporting moment.”
England have never won the Cricket World Cup, and this is the first time they have made the semi-finals since 1992 when they finished as runners-up to Pakistan in a tournament that was one of the first major sports events to be shown exclusively live on Sky.
One complication is the fact that Channel 4 is due to show Formula 1’s British Grand Prix live on the afternoon of 14 July, although it could make its secondary More4 channel available for when the race coincides with the cricket.
In addition, it is thought that Sky could stream the World Cup final on its YouTube channel, on top of its TV coverage on the Sky Sports Main Event and Cricket channels.
Last month, David Richardson, the outgoing chief executive of the ICC, claimed that Sky was in talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board about making the final free to watch.
Richardson said at that point: “We are hopeful that something can be arranged in that regard.”
Earlier this week, England player Liam Plunkett (pictured, left) told BBC Radio 5 live: “It would be nice to go all the way and to have big numbers watching that final if we get through and win. That would be huge.”
However, the fast bowler later tweeted that he was not suggesting that the final should be shown free-to-air and stated Sky, the ECB's main broadcast partner since 2006, was "an incredible partner for the game and have been for the past 20+ years."
For a Sportcal Insight feature on the TV production behind the Cricket World Cup click here.