Calendar, Cash, Cricket: How The 2007 World Cup Changed ICC Tournaments Forever

by Vedam Jaishankar - Jun 3, 2017 04:52 AM
Calendar, Cash, Cricket: How The 2007 World Cup Changed ICC Tournaments ForeverIndia lose to Bangladesh in 2007. (Twitter.com/@CricketopiaCom)
Snapshot
  • India’s early exit from the 2007 World Cup not only resulted in changes in Indian cricket, it also transformed the way the International Cricket Council plans and manages its marquee tournaments

Scheduling of matches at ICC’s mega events is no longer a simple routine imposed by ranking and political considerations. Instead, it is a mega-scheme specifically designed to optimise economic returns to the host broadcaster, ICC and other stakeholders.

Tough lessons were learnt ten years ago, after West Indies burnt their fingers with the hosting of the World Cup in 2007. ICC realised that they needed to be a lot more proactive to ensure that they’d never have to suffer similar consequences at any world event.

They not only took complete charge of their properties—World Cup and Champions Trophy—but also introduced the World T20 Championship. Each had its own distinct cycle, thus ensuring that there would be a mega-event every year. They sold the rights to these events over an eight year period - 2007 to 2015 - for US$1.6 billion to at last see the sort of money they had been dreaming about all along. Until then, the maximum money ICC earned was US$ 239 million in 2007. Otherwise, most of the revenue came from member subscriptions and a little bit of sponsorship.

But television companies spending humongous amounts of money for rights had their own demands based on their interests. To appreciate and understand this one needs to revisit the 2007 World Cup in West Indies.

The Chinese, American and Indian governments had poured money to help construct swanky cricket stadia for the event. The West Indies, no doubt expecting tourists to pour into the Caribbean from the Indian sub-continent, North America, Europe, Australia and South Africa, priced the tickets out of reach of the locals.

The 16 participating teams were divided into four groups of four teams apiece. Two teams from each group would then advance to the Super Eight and later four to the semifinals and two to the final.

India were placed in a group which had Bermuda, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka while arch-rivals Pakistan were in another group that featured hosts West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland. Likewise, traditional rivals England and Australia were placed in separate groups.

Shockingly, within five days of the start of the World Cup, one of the favourites, Pakistan, were knocked out of the reckoning. Five days later another strong contender, India, followed suit and hence the much anticipated Super 8 league clash between these two cricketing giants and rivals fizzled out.

The bottom just fell out of the tournament. In less than the first 10 days of the mega 45-day event all interest in the World Cup had disappeared, at least as far as most of the viewers and advertisers were concerned. Advertisement rates on television plummeted as did the price of tickets re-sold. Hotels too offered huge discounts in an attempt to get people to stay back or lure fresh tourists. The event was a failure as far as India, the largest and most lucrative market for cricket, was concerned.

The hosts West Indies and even ICC scrapped through a small profit because of pre-event sales and deals. However the television channel, in particular, took a hit.

Months later, when the ICC sought to sell rights to its events up to 2015, it had to rework the strategy regarding marquee matches.

The television channels would no longer accept any risk of arch rivals not clashing in a significant league match. These matches were their milch cows and they could not accept any chance of key rivals not playing each other. The best way to guarantee this, it was felt, was to therefore put India and Pakistan in the same group. Likewise, the other marquee match, between England and Australia too had to be squeezed in before the tournament turned inconsequential for any of these teams.

Typically these matches would be played when it was prime time in India and in a stadium that could seat maximum spectators.

Thus the India Vs. Pakistan match in the Champions Trophy is scheduled for Sunday afternoon onwards (IST) when television viewership in India is expected to be massive. Additionally the match is being staged at Edgbaston in Birmingham whose 25,000 capacity is the maximum for the three stadia (Edgbaston, The Oval, Cardiff) hosting the Champions Trophy matches. Birmingham also houses a huge sub-continent population, though any India match anywhere in England could be expected to draw a full house.

Further, to emphasise that an India Vs Pakistan match is in another realm altogether is the dynamic ticket pricing put together. Stubhub quotes upwards of 160 pounds for each ticket for the match. In comparison it seeks upwards of only 22 pounds for the Pakistan Vs. South Africa game and upwards of 25 pounds for the other marquee match between Australia and England. Pointedly all three matches are at the same venue, with the Australia Vs England match scheduled for a Saturday. So every way one looks at it India Vs Pakistan match is a financial bonanza for all.

It is obvious that ICC and the television rights holder have learnt invaluable lessons from the 2007 World Cup debacle. They, and other stakeholders, have hit upon an ideal scheme which would optimally milk the prime marquee match. In the process, anyone who thought India Vs Pakistan match had only political undertones has another thought coming. Sure it is political for these two nations. But for everyone else it is strictly cash!

Vedam Jaishankar is a senior journalist and has extensively reported the game from all over the cricketing world for leading media organisations. His books include Casting A Spell: The Story of Karnataka Cricket.

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