England Cricket Board’s (ECB) decision to bet the house on the Hundred has come under fire. ECB CEO, Tom Harrison has been accused of investing heavily in a competition that is yet to see the light of day.
Tom Harrison was asked to appear before a panel of MPs as part of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) inquiry. The inquiry is being conducted to further assess the damage to the sporting body by coronavirus. The members of the panel grilled Harrison for betting the future of the ECB on a single tournament that has attracted controversy since the day it was unveiled. Harrison was accused on betting the house on red in hopes that luck would be on his side.
Harrison did accept the fact that ECB is set to face losses of £380 million as a result of the pandemic that has caused havoc through the globe. However, insisted of abandoning the Hundred, Harrison believes that even more effort needs to be put into the one of a kind league. The CEO went onto further sing praises for the league which he believes will overshadow other competitions including the highly popular Indian Premier League (IPL)
He was asked by Julian Knight, the DCMS chair whether he believed the gamble would pay off despite the heavy start up costs of launching in the midst of declining financial reserves of the ECB. Since 2016, ECB’s reserves have fallen from £73 million to £11 million leaving the board in a precarious position to deal with COVID-19.
Harrison’s claim that the Hundred would be a profit centre was also question by Knight who asked “
“When you say it’s a profit centre, there’s been widespread disquiet over the advent of The Hundred and the fact there was a large outlay to bring it about. You’ve bet the house, effectively, on red and unfortunately, the casino is closed.”
Harrison was defiant in his reply and reiterated that he does not consider the innovative tournament to be a gamble. “I wouldn’t categorise The Hundred as a gamble. It’s a profit centre for cricket as has been demonstrated. It was going to bring in £11 million of profit to the game this year. It carries with it an extra dividend to the counties, which is critical revenue to them” said Harrison
Harrison when explaining his case mentioned how it was essential for the ECB to embark upon this adventure. As per Harrison, the Hundred will generate much needed interest that will revitalise the sport.
“At a time like this, when we are facing enormous pressure on finances, it seems to me even more important we focus on the areas of the game which are going to generate interest, audience and commercial revenue. Especially with the weight of evidence we had behind the Hundred in terms of the ticket sales, in terms of traction the competition was getting in the very audience we were setting out to get. I understand there is significant resistance to The Hundred. There has been for two years. That does not make it a bad idea. Or an idea that’s not likely to succeed. We will put even more effort into The Hundred post this crisis because I think cricket will desperately need, in a hugely competitive landscape, cricket will need to pull every lever to ensure cricket remains relevant in a society that has so much choice.” said Harrison
The panel also questioned Harrison’s claims of profitability which he believes will be achieved in year one. As per the business plan, the Hundred is expected to cost £39.1 million against a potential income of £51 in the first year. However, the panel questioned whether that figure excludes the £1.3 million a year guaranteed money that will be provided to each of the first-class counties.
Giles Watling was quick to poke holes in Harrison’s projections “Is it correct the Hundred will only make a profit if you exclude the £1.3 million payment guaranteed each year to each first-class county?” Watling asked.
“Yes, but the £1.3 million every year to each county is a dividend and not part of the P&L (profit and loss) of the tournament. That is part of the deal, if you like, that was done with the counties to give the ECB permission to create a new tournament with all the objectives sitting behind it. It’s is not linked to the P&L. It’s a dividend that is a crucial part of the agreement that we have with the first-class counties.” replied Harrison
Apart from the financial gain from holding the competition, Harrison believes that the Hundred will generate much needed interest from a new audience. This is new audience is vital if the ECB is to move away from its reliance on the broadcast deal with Sky.
Harrison was quick to add numbers to support his claims. “We’d sold 170,000 tickets in February for this year’s men’s and women’s Hundred,” he said. “The game had never sold that number of tickets at that speed before with the exception of the Cricket World Cup. So we were in a very strong position to achieve exactly what we set out to achieve in terms of growing the audience for cricket in this country.
“The profile of ticket buyers was extremely encouraging. The evidence we have from the data behind those ticket sales it that was largely under-40s with the intention of taking children to those events. In some circumstances as a first opportunity to see live cricket. That’s precisely the kind of audience we were after.
“But let me be clear: we are heavily reliant on cricket’s existing audience as well. The more we can create a groundswell of audience that is representative of our country – multi-cultural, diverse, men and women, boys and girls, from all parts of the country – the better prepared we will be to sustain our wonderfully diverse sport in this country with all its weird and wonderful formats.
“At the moment, we’re very heavily [reliant] – to the tune of three-quarters of our revenue – on one broadcaster. Anyone looking at a business plan for the long-term health of a sport will be looking at that number and thinking it’s a big risk. The Hundred helps us look at different ways of diversifying our revenue in the future and securing the future of 18 first-class counties.”
Despite his unwavering support for the Hundred, Harrison did concede that the board was facing huge financial challenges caused by the virus.
We at cricketbettingpro hope that ECB and other cricketing boards are able to fend off the threat posed by this deadly virus. The game is in need of vital injections that can surely be brought in by leagues such as the Hundred.
Title: ECB CEO Tom Harrison Denies Gambling on the Hundred Despite Potential Loss
Posted On: 26/05/2020
Author: Tony Willets