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Sky is the limit for future of England cricket.

CRICKET will be the winner following the Government's decision to move Test matches on to List B - and that is more important than pleasing the armchair fan.

There are sure to be moans if live coverage of England's home Tests is moved from the BBC to Sky as a result, although at this stage that remains an `if'.

But, providing they stop to consider the wider view, every follower of English cricket must acknowledge that the monopoly enjoyed by the BBC for 50 years has long become an anachronism.

Cricket's bosses in this country were being hamstrung by their enforced inability to negotiate a fair market price for their primary product.

And, of course, that meant the sport - all the way down from the Test arena to the playground - was suffering.

Much has been made of the pounds 60 million television deal struck jointly with the BBC and Sky back in 1994 and that indeed was a triumph for the England Cricket Board's negotiators.

Yet it was a triumph against the odds and the deal could have been even higher.

As it is, the past listing of home Test matches has already cost English cricket millions of pounds.

Now, without one hand tied behind its back, the ECB can march more assuredly into the marketplace and thrash out a new deal which it feels can most benefit the whole of the game.

The BBC will undoubtedly still carry Test cricket in some format.

T he relatively small daytime audience who have the time to follow every single ball live may well, however, have to purchase a cable or satellite system and a Sky Sports subscription for the privilege of watching Alec Stewart's charges in future.

But, indirectly, that will also mean more money still going into cricket's coffers because the bigger the viewing figures the more valuable the product will become.

And, as the constant trials and tribulations of England's Test team starkly illustrates, there are massive investments needed at all levels of the game if there is to be a tangible long-term improvement in our world standing.

Would the armchair fan rather pay a little more and hopefully get to watch a successful England team give him more than 150 hours of live entertainment each summer - or does he want to continue paying nothing more than the licence fee and watch a favouri te sport wither on the vine?
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 28, 1998
Words:400
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