For at least six years we, the general public, will not be able to watch one-day or twenty-20 cricket. Not unless we choose to pay $58 a month to subscribe to Fox Sports.
Cricket has always been the summer sport of choice for the great majority of Australians. Those who play on Saturday afternoons on the local oval and those who used to play. Cricket is unique among sports as those who play at the highest level are playing the same game as those who have a bash in the back yard.
The radio and free-to-air telecasts of the Australian team has been a staple of Australian life for generations. Now Mvrdoch has chosen to break that summer tradition. All in the name of greed.
Greed and a belated thumbed nose at his old rival Kerry Packer who won the rights to Australian cricket a quarter of a century ago. As with all late-capitalist plans, there is no thought for the future. Just a need to increase the bottom line in THIS quarter. Something which has been on show in the Banking Royal Commission.
So what will happen to Cricket in Australia?
It will begin to wither. It has already begun to do so. Just as Formula One has lost its mass appeal with its move to Fox Sports; the place popular sport goes to die! The infamous ball-tampering episode in South Africa was just one sign of a much deeper malaise in Australian Cricket. The game has lost a lot of credibility; that translates into a loss of grassroots players and fans. That would have been able to be overcome with several years of honest play and a slow recovery of respect as the playing squad changed personnel over time.
Stupidly (yes, I used the word because it is the only one which fits!) the body which decides the future of Cricket chose to make bottom-line financial decisions which work for this quarter, this financial period but which will kill the goose which lays the golden eggs. Somehow cricket’s administration was invaded by men who professed to love the game but only ever saw it as a cash cow. So they went down the road of looking for more money from the media regardless of the effect. $1.2 billion was too much for them to ignore.
That effect will be a huge reduction in the viewing audience. In the present economic climate of greed by the ‘Top End of Town’ and penury in the pockets of 80% of the population, how many new customers will be able to afford a Fox Sports subscription? This really is the bottom line to this whole exersize. While Free to Air TV has the ability to tap into the mass market, Fox Sports is an elite service. With its $700 annual slug to the family budget there will be relatively few households which will choose Fox Sports over food and energy. The chances of the pay to view audience in Australia growing from its current 2.8 million base to even 3.5 million (25%) is slight to say the least.
What will be left in six years time, when the current contract runs out, is anyone’s guess. It certainly will no longer be the cash cow it seems to be now, in 2018. Player participation at the grassroots level will be reduced and with that the talent pool for the higher levels of the sport will be reduced.
Australia will no longer be a power-house in world Cricket.
The Australian Cricket Board, for other, more publicised reasons, has now lost its prime movers, the architects of this debacle. Yet it could be that they have set up the destruction of this game so loved by Australians and then run away as the enormity of their treachery becomes apparent.