Hong Kong Cricket. Upsets. Riots, helicopters & unpaid leave. David & Goliath.

During the ICC World T20 2014, a cricketing nation with around 750 (male and female) senior cricketers pulled off the upset of all upsets. Hosts Bangladesh, a cricket mad nation with a population around 160 million, were beaten by Hong Kong, on home soil no less. Furthermore, the players and staff were ready to leave everything behind and evacuate in military helicopters as security personnel were very afraid of a riot at the ground. I had been in Hong Kong for six months – working in marine insurance – and found myself in tears watching the match, and even moreso afterwards. What an amazing story. I play against these guys on the weekends. Where have they come from? How do I get more involved? Just over a year later, I was lucky enough to become the sportā€™s first CEO in Hong Kong. Not long after, in the confines of the CEO’s office, three (work) mates came up with the idea of a franchised T20 event. This year, the HK T20 Blitz was beamed to almost 200 million homes. But, this is not about me. Just. Watch.. (The ICC Video is here but won’t embed!)
https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ioa7s
If the first game of the Asia Cup 2018 against Pakistan wasnā€™t imposing enough, tonight, the cricket team representing the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, takes on the might of India. Hundreds of millions of cricket fans. Media rights income approaching a billion dollars a year. Cricket Hong Kongā€™s income for 2016/17 was just over $3m. MS Dhoni (according to a quick search) has a net worth of between 100-170 million US dollars. The Hong Kong wicket-keeper, Scott McKechnie ā€“ who took a pair of smart catches two nights ago to complete HKā€™s only dismissals – is not contracted due to his full-time job with Kowloon Cricket Club. He has taken unpaid leave from his role as KCC Head Coach to play in the qualifiers in Malaysia, and extend his leave to cover his time in the UAE. Players can claim loss-of-income from Cricket Hong Kong when they are not contracted and are selected to tour ā€“ but this generally does not cover the full amount they are forgoing by representing HK. Does this fact demean the level of commitment? Absolutely not. Are the HK squad run like a professional team. Of course they are. They are supported by coaches, physios, analysts, and other technical staff. They train as much as they can ā€“ and where they can ā€“ depending where administrators can afford to prepare for them, or to take them to. The majority of the team have either been born in Hong Kong or have learnt the sport here. Family roots throughout the squad spread across the globe. From Pakistan to India, Australia, England, Zimbabwe & New Zealand, their names or families may be from, or their birthplaces be – but this is very much the Hong Kong Cricket team. On that fateful night, the 20th March 2014, a small group of us gathered in the Chater Tavern (or ā€œTop Barā€) of the Hong Kong Cricket Club. After two poor showings against Nepal and Afghanistan, there had been a few chuckles during then-skipper Jamie Atkinsonā€™s press conference a day earlier, when he imagined a Hong Kong victory against the Test playing, Full Member hosts, in the final game of Group A. Not many hours later the Hong Kong team management was being prepped to be taken by military helicopters from the middle of the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong. After bowling out the hosts for 108 in under 17 overs, if the visitors chased down the target in 13.1 overs or less, Nepal would leapfrog Bangladesh on NRR and progress to the main group. If so, the helicopters would be called in. After a typically (you never get used to them) chaotic HK chase, the total was reeled in. A one-handed six over wide mid-off by the opening bowler no less. Nepal fans were surely disappointed it had taken Hong Kong all but two balls of their allotted twenty overs to reach the target. The coaching staff and players however, were very relieved they would not have to leave their cricket gear behind and evacuate the predicted riot. A win was a win. And it was massive. No helicopters. Just a very happy Jamie Atkinson. Crowds are highly unlikely to react similarly if there is another upset tonight in Dubai, but there will indeed be many a tear shed by the faithful back here in the +852. Many of us will be back at HKCC tonight, watching. Cheering. COME ON HONG KONG!

The Asia Cup – a window to better global events?

The ACC’s Unimoni Asia Cup 2018Ā starts tomorrow. It is a six team, ODI event – including one Associate Member – played over fourteen days. The two teams who contest the final will have played six games, those who do not progress past the pool stage will complete two matches each.

Its format gets the balance just right. It fits nicely into an ever-cramped international schedule (despite some initial concerns as to India’s fixtures), providing a coveted place for one of the Associate Members in Asia while doing its best to present maximum value for broadcasters. Short, sharp, contextual, inclusive. I can’t wait.

Earlier this year, there was a lot of noise about the next ICC Cricket World Cup. Much has already been said, written, and tweeted. The long and short of it is that it is a ten team, single round robin event. After an amazing qualifying tournament, the sport’s current pinnacle event will be without two of its Test nations, nor will it feature an Associate Member.

The ICC has said this format – last utilised in 1992 – was used so that it could squeeze as much money as possible out of the media rights to its 2015-23 global events. These were sold to Star for ~$2bn. The same network also won the tender for the Asia Cups held from 2016-23.Ā 

However, despite having the same network owning its rights, with a deal that was announced only a day after the ICC contract, the ACC have not followed suit – and have employed a six-team, two pool event. Now, “if” a tweaked single round-robin ICC model was employed (let’s say for the Asian Full Members only) it would’ve been:

  • Five-team single round-robin (nine matches / one per day)
  • IPL-style semi-finals (three matches / one per day)
  • Final (13 matches total)

This format would’ve guaranteed each team a minimum of four ODIs with a maximum possible of seven.

Instead, the ACC have included one emerging team and used:

  • Two pools of three single round-robin (six matches / one per day)
  • Top two into a “Super Four” (six matches / two per day)
  • Final (13 matches in total)

Now, this only guaranteed each team a minimum of two ODIs, but in exactly the same number of matches and fewer days, achieved by playing two games per day during the Super Four round, a particular feature in the 20-team World Cup format devised by Russ Degnan:

In this format, the Asia Cricket Council (ACC) has provided a more inclusive Asia Cup than what would’ve been possible with a single-round robin league/cup. To me this provides a better model for not only showcasing the region’s best teams, but also one that recognises the developmental value in providing a berth for an Associate team.

That team, Hong Kong, came through a typical close-fought qualifying tournamentĀ – ironically played at the same time as the 2018 Asian Games; which should have had cricket in itĀ – to snare that sixth spot, winning all three games against the only Asian Associate ODI nations, Nepal & UAE.

The final of the qualifying tournament in Malaysia was produced for Star and broadcast across the world*.Ā 

Furthermore, the last 50 over Asia Cup in 2014 (won by Sri Lanka) had only five teams – the four FMs plus qualifier Afghanistan, who was an Associate at the time. This year sees an additional FM spot for Afghanistan – and the emerging nation place retained.

Big green ticks to ACC.

Conversely, the number of teams awarded ODI status by the ICC has remained at 16 for many years, despite there being two recently-promoted Full Members. Although, a recent media release may indicate this total number “may” be under review by the ICC. Potentially positive news to come.

The matches in the UAE start tomorrow with six consecutive day / night ODIs. Group A includes Hong Kong, India, Pakistan & Group B is Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka.

The top two then from each group form a “Super Four” who play each other once, and the top two will then meet in the final on Friday 28 September, completed a crisp 14-day event.

Star TV – currently owned by Fox, and soon to be handed over to Disney/ESPN – currently holds the rights for the BCCI (including IPL), the ICC, and whose parent also has a controlling stake in Sky, who have the ECB broadcast deal, too.

Not to be outdone, Fox is also the majority partner in Cricket Australia’s new media contract too. I talk about the big three’s deals here.

(Apologies for the extended delay since my last piece – who would’ve thought full time employment would take up so much of my spare time…)

BONUS TITBIT: In partnership with the ECB, the ICC continues to churn out various content for the 2019 World Cup. Ticket ballots, comedians, and seemingly the theme for #CWC19 have all hit our feeds – and there were over 2.5m tickets requested in the lottery-based system. Things have definitely come a very long way since the last time the 50-over global event was hosted in the UK. When teams came from all over the world to play.

And…. COME ON HONG KONG!

*Correction – the original article erroneously stated no matches of 2016 Asia Cup qualifier were broadcast.

Associate funding – censuses, scorecards & grants

We’ve just seen Ireland play their first (men’s) Test match, going down in a very entertaining close-fought encounter with Pakistan that ended just before tea on the fifth day. Do yourself a favour and read Jarrod Kimber’s piece on the historic occasion. In four weeks, Afghanistan take on the might of Team India in Bengaluru for their own inaugural Test fixture.

After being elevated to Full Members of the ICC last year, Afghanistan and Ireland will now be funded like the other ten Test nations – by a distribution split decided by the ICC Board.

The process for assessing what each Associate Member (AM) receives is much more involved with many more moving parts and timelines.Ā After my more-generalĀ ICC’s global funding model post it is only fair that I now take the time to set out how cricket’s emerging nations are funded.

Besides the twelve Full Members of the ICC, there are 93* AMs who share a USD figure somewhere between $160-200m^. This equates to roughly 10% of total member grants over the 2015-23 rights period.

Associate Members compete for their proportion of this funding across two major pools – more or less splitting the available funds 50/50 – each with its own criteria:

  • Scorecard Grant. Every emerging nation is measured across twelve weighted criteria that cover off-field aspects of the member’s operations. All AMs are then ranked overall and then fall into eight categories of funding, which range from $510,000 for the highest four (group A), to $12,500 for the 20 member federations in group N. The weighting across the card amounts to 70% (Participation – six separate criteria), 10% (Infrastructure, Officials & Staff – five criteria), 20% (Non-ICC Income – one criteria)
  • Competition Grant. This grant (or grants if you are eligible) is matched to the highest ICC-event/s you have most recently qualified for, or competed in. In 2017 the highest achieving teams received around $700,000 under this grant system. ThisĀ excludes Afghanistan & Ireland who would have received over $2m after receiving $1.7m for being on the main ICC ODI rankings table . For countries below World Cricket League (WCL) division 5, and who had not made it to any of the global qualifiers for men’s (CWC/WT20), women’s (CWC/WT20) or U19 CWC they did not receive anything from this pot.

More on the scorecard

The numbers that are measured on the scorecard are gathered by the ICC across their annual census, and quarterly reports. The data is then sortedĀ  throughout the next year, collated and ranked, and members are informed towards the end of the year where they place in the scorecard. Effectively, you have a two year lag in census year v funding year.

All figures are self-reported. The harsh reality here is that a single place change in one ranking metric could result in a huge (positive or negative) effect on a member’s funding – unsurprisingly there have been reports of various instances of “creative accounting”. Many of these remain private / dealt with confidentially, but here’s one mention back in 2013, with respect to ground numbers in the USA.

More on tournament grants + extraordinary funding

The World Cricket League funding, as it decreases down the divisions: (WCLC: 300K, WCL2: 150K, WCL3: 75K, WCL4: 50K, WCL5: 25K)#

Intercontinental Cup: 325K, men’s/U19 global qualifiers: 75K, women’s global qualifiers: 25K.#

In recent years, additional one-off (sometimes in instalments) grants for major tournaments or other extraordinary funding was also provided. These included:

$1mCricket World Cup 2015 (Afg, Ire, Scot, UAE)

$425k – World Twenty20 2016 (Afg, HK, Ire, Net, Oma, Sco). It was reportedĀ Ā here as $250,000Ā (as it was for 2014) and here as $300,000. However, this was during my time at CHK, and it’s only fair to say that the total received by the AM qualifiers was increased by the ICC to further assist qualifying Associate teams prepare for the 2016 event.

$500k / $250kExtraordinary funding for ODI/T20I nationsĀ ($500k: Afg, Ire / $250k: HK, Net, Oma, PNG, Sco, UAE). This was in addition to another other competition grants or global event fees to assist ODI/T20I status-holding AMs arrange more competitive (bilateral) fixtures. Every country here except PNG used some of the money to participate in theĀ Desert T20 in early 2017. Namibia, despite not have ODI/T20I status took the eighth spot that was originally offered to PNG.

Prior to the 2014 “big three” reforms there was also theĀ Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme (TAPP). Afghanistan ($422k for a national cricket centre in 2013) and Ireland ($1.5m for an improved elite domestic structure in 2012) were both beneficiaries. According to the ACC, TAPP provided just over $12m across three FMs (NZ, WI, Zim) and four AMs (Afg, Ire, Net, Sco).

*This includes USA Cricket who despite having their ICC Membership cancelled in 2017 are being administered / funded by ICC and are approaching readmission.

^Funding not exactly as had been reported previously – AFG/IRE funding did not necessarily (all) come from AM pot.

#This was added slightly after original publishing as was excluded originally erroneously. I will put something together on the World Cricket League structures in the near future to put this funding information in context.

Big three broadcast deals compared

The six billion dollar baby

After a much-reported negotiation concluded, Cricket Australia recently announced their new media rights deal for 2018-23. That meant the last of the “big three” had finalised their new domestic broadcast contracts, and they make very interesting reading. All values are USD unless noted otherwise and are as per FX rates from 1st May.

The total? Just a tick under six billion dollars.

This is how they stack up per year/season as appropriate:

BCCI: $700m per year i.e. $3.49bn over five seasons (2018-22) (IPL $2.55bnĀ +Ā $944m for other Indian cricket)

ECB: $306m per year i.e.Ā GPB1.1bnĀ ($1.53bn) over five seasons (2020-25)

CA: $178m per year i.e.Ā AUD1.18bnĀ ($890m) over six years (but five seasons) (2018-23)

These deals are for the cricket played in their countries only. Their national teams’ fixtures and domestic T20 (or 100 ball) tournaments will make up the bulk of the value for the broadcasters.

Besides India’s recent deals, these amounts do not include the broadcast rights outside of each full member’s own country (e.g. the BBL being broadcast to the UK).

It will take a whole other piece to set out total broadcast revenue for the likes of a BCCI, CA or ECB taking all broadcast factors into account – including the revenue sharing of bilateral tours – so I will leave that for another day and just concentrate on each of the major “home” rights contracts.

In saying that though, the sharing of revenue for bilateral tours is major contributor to a country’s top line. Without getting into the nitty gritty of sharing proportions etc. what this means in reality, is when the likes of an India tour your country you stand to receive a large chunk of money as a share of the value of that series. As we have seen in the recent past, when India pulls out of a potential tour, there is normally a lot of noise that follows the decision – and this is all because of the amount of money that country would have stood to gain from India touring.

Here’s a little more detail on each country’s broadcast arrangements.

Australia

This will be the first time any home Australian cricket will be exclusively behind a paywall with men’s ODI/T20I matches on Fox Sports only. Foxtel subscribers will also be the only ones to watch the additional matches (exact schedule still TBC) added to the BBL over and above last year’s fixtures. All other matches – including more women’s cricket than ever before, will be shown on both Fox and free-to-air (FTA) network Channel Seven. After 40 years – the first time since before World Series Cricket was introduced by Kerry Packer – Channel Nine will not show any cricket played in Australia, beyond the men’s and women’s World Twenty20s in 2020. They will also show the Ashes and the World Cup – both being played in England & Wales during the 2019 northern hemisphere summer.

Fox Sports have promised a dedicated cricket channel – an Australian first – which promises a raft of new shows and concepts, and revised offerings to their digital customers.

It has not yet been confirmed who will be producing the content and whether Seven will simulcast/licence Fox footage and/or add their own production offering. Considering the recent news that both networks (plus Nine) are pursuing key commentary figures, it tells us (at least) we will get some variety across the channels for those with access to subscription television.

England & Wales

After moving 100% of all cricket onto pay TV’s Sky Sports after the historic 2015 Ashes win, the ECB’s new deal pulls some cricket back onto FTA TV with 21 matches to be shown on BBC, including men’s & women’s internationals and the new T20/100 competition. Sky Sports fought off a very keen bid from BT Sport. BT also holds the UK rights for all of Australia’s home matches from 2016-21 in a deal reported to be worth almost $110m (GBP80m).

India

In the biggest single cricket rights deal ever, Star Sports won the 2018-22 rights for the IPL for a whopping $2.55bn. With 60 matches a season, it puts it up there with one of the most valuable sporting leagues in the world – however, when compared to how many matches are played in the other properties on the list, it doesn’t really compare (yet).

The BCCI then e-auctioned all its other domestic content, netting almost another billion dollars, from Star again. This actually eclipsed the IPL deal on a per match basis ($9.26m v $8.47m)Ā  however once you consider the many more hours (and match days) of content the Indian match deal includes across ODI and Test match cricket, the IPL still wins out in terms of value by airtime.

 

ICC global funding model explainer

The first of a series of FAQ-style posts about the underlying structures of cricket’s funding, development, strategies, and other pieces that are useful in understanding what goes on behind the sport’s curtain…

A brief look at how global cricket is funded by the ICC (and where the money comes from)

The vast majority of cricket funding (outside the major nations’ own arrangements) comes from moneys distributed by the ICC. Almost US$1.8bn will be distributed over this current rights period (2015-23) to over a hundred member federations.

The majority of ICC funds are gained from their “global events” which include the Men’s & Women’s 50 over Cricket World Cups (CWC) and World Twenty20s (WT20). The Champions Trophy 2017 & 2021 was also included, but the 2021 event has now been replaced by a World Twenty20 instead.

In the majority, these funds come from two particular streams:

  • Media (TV & digital) Rights. Star Sports* (through their Indian/Middle East operations) bought the worldwide 2015-23 rights for around two billion dollars.Ā ICC approved broadcasters will then carry these events in their regions after paying a fee to Star; e.g. Sky (UK), Super Sport (Sub-Saharan Africa), Channel 9/ Fox Sports (Aus) etc. *Interestingly Star will be sold to Disney by owners Fox as part of a massive dealĀ which should complete in the next year or so. How does the value of these rights compare the deals signs some of the bigger cricket nations? Look out for another FAQ on that soon.
  • Sponsorship Properties. There is ~$700m in the ICC budget for the 2015-23 period. This includes everything from naming to major alignments such as trophy naming rights and other headline deals (they do not sell naming rights to world events any more – if we think back to the “Wills World Cup” days in 1996 etc). Major names aligned to ICC events during this period include Nissan, Emirates, Oppo, Pepsi, LG, MRF Tyres, Castrol, Reliance, Hyundai, and more..

Other non-event specific sponsorships such as the Umpires (Emirates), and equipment (Gray-Nicolls) are in addition to these global events, but will generally also carry over and into the major tournaments.

The funding distribution model has changed a lot (and numerous times) over the past few years, no more so than as a result of the “Big 3” reforms in 2014, which were more or less repealed mid last year under a raft of positive governance overhauls under Chairman, Shashank Manohar (seen above, photo: ICC). The ICC confirmed the current model in early 2018.

Manohar was first appointed Chairman in November 2015, when he was BCCI’s representative. However he resigned as BCCI President in order to take up the position as the ICC’s first independent Chairman in May 2016.

So, how much does each member receive?

Over eight years the breakdown of ICC grants to members are as follows (USD):

  • 405m (~51m pa) India
  • 139m (~17m pa) England
  • 128m (16m pa) Australia, Bangladesh, NZ, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies
  • 94m (~12m pa) Zimbabwe
  • 40m (~5m pa) Afghanistan & Ireland (became full members 2017 so this may be pro-rata from 2017-23)
  • 160m to 93 Associates – this broken up across two grant systems (tournament & scorecard)^. The complexities of Associate funding deserve their own piece (or perhaps pieces) which will follow shortly.

Dutch journalist Bertus De Jong set out the funding model changes in a tweet not long after they were ratified:

The new model totals distributions to members of $1.774bn, the rest is for ICC’s administration and cost of running its operations and events.

It must be noted that these totals are based on the current ICC income budgets for 2015-23. These will change if actual numbers (are forecast to) deviate from the budget.

^correction: the original post had “as well as the cost of running emerging tournaments such as the World Cricket League and minor (i.e. non-global) qualifying tournaments” in this section. This funding comes out of the central ICC pot, the AM allocation of 160m go direct to Associate Members in grants.

T20I status for all. Just a few tweaks needed.

Domestic T20 leagues, Olympic inclusion & playing conditions in the spotlight.

From 1 January 2019 all (men’s) international cricket teams – all 104 of them – will have full Twenty20 International (T20I) status. This will mean a first-ever level playing field across all countries in a single format, as well as the creation of cricket’s first truly global rankings system. This will be introduced for men’s and women’s teams.

It was also announced that the 2021 Champions Trophy will now become a World Twenty20, and there also appears to be a renewed vigour around cricket’s inclusion at the Olympics (2028 in LA being the earliest opportunity).

Overall this is great news for the sport’s development. Previously, to play a T20I (or an ODI) both teams had to have the requisite status, and the match had to be played under strict(er) controls that include umpire appointments and prior ground approval, amongst others.

I will be interested to read how the ICC plan on reviewing the playing conditions around T20Is to make it as easy as possible for nations to play these matches. It would not be realistic to expect all countries, in order to play T20Is, to only conduct matches at the currently (limited) number of approved grounds available. There is also the questions around the additional costs for ICC appointed match officials as well, as a great number of ICC members do not have immediate access to turf wickets. The ICC cricket department, led by Australian former-first class cricketer Geoff Allardice, had been discussing the feasibility of T20Is being able to be played on synthetics pitches / grounds previously. Considering the just-finishedĀ ICC World T20 Africa A Qualifier was played on a synthetic wicket – and for the sake of the growth of the sport, I hope this line of thought has prevailed.

One of the sticking points with the IOC with Olympic inclusion was that they did not want a format of the sport which would not provide a “pinnacle” in an Olympic event. The introduction of a global rankings system, and another global tournament (in place of one in another format), goes a long way to show the IOC that the ICC is serious about T20 cricket – which by all accounts, is the only format being considered for Olympic inclusion.

Beside the current restrictive conditions around grounds and officials, I also hope the ICC consider changing their policy when it comes to the status of domestic T20 tournaments. Despite the calibre of players on show – and that it was played at an approved ODI/T20I venue – the Hong Kong T20 Blitz was classed as “Other T20s” for stats purposes, so no performance will be kept alongside playersā€™ performances in other franchise / domestic leagues.

There is simple solution to this: abolish the current regulation that only Full Member nations can have full “T20” domestic tournaments. This can then be replaced – rather than saying that “any” T20 match anywhere will go towards stats (this would could utter havoc) – but say that every tournament that goes through the ICC approval process (this is a prerequisite step for any tournament wanting to invite overseas players) will be awarded full “T20” status meaning that the stats of HK’s T20 Blitz, and Nepal’s EPL & DPL, for example would all have the same status as BBL, BPL & IPL matches.

Now, the question of club (i.e. domestic T20 leagues) v country (T20Is) is a complex one, and the ICC is wary of giving these leagues ammunition to sideline international cricket. However, I think that my suggested approval of T20 matches can be managed – alongside amending the approval process for these events, which I will write on another time – and can be another step forward in embracing emerging nations’ plans to hold these domestic events in an event to drive commercial revenue and local interest in cricket. However, it needs to been managed carefully so as not to be luring players away from playing for their countries, and maybe more importantly, not providing breeding grounds for nefarious involvement with respect to spot / match fixing.

Overall though, and echoing ICC CEO David Richardson’sĀ  (pictured above – photo courtesy ICC) comments in the release, this is great step forward for the sport; the ICC-at-large (especially the Development team, led by Will Glenwright) should be commended.

“Status” has always been a keenly discussed topic and seen by many as an archaic mechanism that is getting in the way of cricket becoming truly “global”. Ours is the only sport I am aware of that puts conditions on it being played, where countries competing – in sometimes the identical conditions as others are not classed the same. This was no more evident at the recent (50 over) Cricket World Cup Qualifiers where two of the ten teams (Nepal & Netherlands) did not have One Day International status, and therefore, every game they played – even against full members – was List A. All other matches in the tournament were ODIs.

Welcome to cutsinfo.com

After years of writing blogs on (emerging/Associate) cricket for other sites as well as participating in podcasts, panels, interviews, and broadcasts, I thought it high time to have a central place where I could collect my thoughts and pieces.

Over time, I will try and collate historic content here for easy reference.

Whether it is from previous work or new pieces here, the idea will be to build up a useful reference point (as well as a big dose of insight / opinion poured in too!).

I look forward to sharing some of my experiences, as well as telling some stories that may otherwise go unknown. Associate cricket structures, and the intricacies of the funding model from the International Cricket Council remain a commonly misunderstood topic – and that’s something which I certainly look forward to filling in the blanks on!

If you have any particular topics or questions you would like covered feel free to drop me a line here or via any of the various social networks I’m on. Likewise if you have any feedback or suggestions for cutsinfo.com.

I hope this site becomes a useful resource for those interested in the continued growth of cricket, both beyond the major nations, and also into sectors of the community who haven’t had the same levels of exposure to the game as others.

Yours in cricket, Tim.