Australian cricket fans may miss out on World T20 action if the current impasse over TV rights continues. According to a report in Herald Sun, local TV network and Fox Sports have decided to black out the ICC event instead of paying “huge money” for the telecasting rights as reportedly demanded by host broadcaster, India TV giant Star Sports.
A spokesperson for Fox Sports, who has telecast previous World T20 events to viewers in Australia, has confirmed to the newspaper that it won’t air the five-week tournament.
Australia, led by Steve Smith, will reach Bangladesh on Saturday for a warm-up T20 series in South Africa against the Proteas, starting on March 4.
As a report in Sydney Morning Herald points out, even the presence of the tournament on Australia's anti-siphoning list, which prioritises free-to-air coverage of major events, has been of no consequence, because those rules don't compel commercial broadcasters to buy the rights.
According to the report, Australia’s popular Channel Nine Network has fulfilled the rule during the last two World T20 tournaments in 2012 and 2014, specifying all matches involving Australia and also the final be shown live on their primary channel. It also broadcast matches in the inaugural tournament, in 2007.
But the network has confirmed that it does not have the rights for this year’s tournament. Its commercial rivals Seven and Ten, the latter boasting Twenty20 credibility because of its BBL coverage, have also confirmed they will not be showing the event, says the report.
The ICC World T20 has been plagued by myriad logistical problems. Tickets for other major sporting events in 2016 such as the Rio Olympics in August and football’s European Championships which take place in France in June went on sale months ago.
But the ICC event’s tickets have gone on sale only on Wednesday and that too for five venues - there is no news yet for matches to be held in Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi. Lot of travelling fans are bound to be impacted by this, and it might already be too late for them to make travel plans.
Speaking to ESPNCricinfo, an ICC official chose to play that aspect down. "Look at this way, India as a destination … it has always been local sale which chews up into the entire volume than people coming from outside," he said. "That's not a reason [for the delay], but it's a comfort in some way," he was quoted as saying.
And add to that the fact that India's matches - - in lieu of being "high-demand" matches - are based on a lottery system has not gone down well with fans.
According to a AFP report from earlier this month the delay can be explained in part by the uncertainty over whether Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium will receive all the permits needed to stage its four matches — including the first semi-final.
With less than two weeks to go, the organisational issues of the ICC WorldT20 refuse to go away from the limelight.