Records tumble as cricket set for another income bonanza

Records tumble as cricket set for another income bonanza
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Updated 23 June 2022

Records tumble as cricket set for another income bonanza

Records tumble as cricket set for another income bonanza
  • As money keeps pouring into game, cricket, particularly on Indian subcontinent, now capable of generating staggering sums of money for BCCI, in its train, ICC

Breaking records is in cricket’s DNA. England scored the highest-ever international 50-over total of 498 against the Netherlands last Friday.

Off the field, as highlighted in last week’s column, the $6.2 billion e-auction by the Board of Control for Cricket in India of media rights for the 2023 to 2027 cycle of the Indian Premier League, more than doubled its previous record of $2.6 billion. The income will be spilt almost equally between TV and digital streams, a change from the 75:25 balance in the previous cycle.

Hard on the heels of the BCCI auction comes the sale of media rights by the International Cricket Council for its next cycle, starting in 2024. It hopes to break records.

An invitation to tender (ITT) was issued on June 20, relating only to the lucrative Indian market, with men’s and women’s cricket being sold separately. This diverges from previous practice, when combined men’s and women’s rights were sold on a global basis. Sealed bids are to be submitted by Aug. 22, with successful bidders announced in September, along with details of their bids, but no others. After then, ITTs for other markets will be released.

Six packages are available, three each for men’s and women’s cricket, covering TV only, digital only, or a combination of the two. Between 2024 and 2031, 16 men’s events are available, comprising four T20 world cups, two 50-over world cups, four under-19 world cups, and six champions events. Bidders have the choice of opting for four or eight-year partnerships.

This is not the case for the women’s tournaments, which comprise two T20 world cups, two under-19 T20 world cups, one 50-over world cup, and one T20 champions trophy. Although only a four-year option is available, the ICC has made it clear that the highest bidder for the women’s events may not be awarded the contract.

Emphasis is being placed on how each bid will seek to promote the women’s game in line with the ICC’s commitment to continue to accelerate its recent growth.

Controversially, the ICC chair recently stated that he could not foresee women’s Test cricket being “part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent.” This is underlined by all of the matches in the women’s bid-packages being white-ball. However, asking bidders to be innovative suggests a lack of ideas or opportunism by the ICC. The requirement may cause nervousness about the criteria to be used under the ICC’s closed-bid system to determine winning submissions.

The concern also applies to the option of submitting four- and eight-year bids for men’s cricket. Over the next decade, changes in delivery technology are likely to occur, while changes in the balance of media consumption between TV and digital are already apparent. If, during the second four years, circumstances change markedly, will there be an opportunity to mitigate that risk?

In India, active internet users are forecast to grow to 900 million in 2025 from 560 million in 2017. In this changing landscape, the type of bidder-interest for cricket media rights is also displaying change. Names which had never been previously associated with cricket expressed interest in the IPL bidding process – Alphabet/Google, Apple, and Amazon – but decided not to enter. In 2022, Viacom18 and Times Internet were newly successful bidders, edging out Zee Enterprises and Sony, which had held the rights for 10 years before losing to Star in 2017.

The ICC has been greatly encouraged by the size of the bids for IPL media rights, regarding them as proof of an undiminished appetite by the media to promote cricket and that higher values will be obtained in this bidding round.

Disney-Star hold the rights in the current consolidated deal, reportedly worth just short of $2 billion. It also retained its hold on the TV rights for the IPL. Given this level of commitment, it is reasonable to assume that Disney will be in the frame for the ICC rights. However, it is worth noting that it chose not to bid for the IPL’s digital rights, concluding that the price was too high.

It is too early to know who else will bid and what their strategies will be, given the closeness of the bidding to IPL’s e-auction. One concern is that a review of viewership patterns in the 2022 IPL indicated a decline in TV viewership of one-third compared with 2021. A number of mitigating circumstances have been put forward by analysts. One was that the previous edition had ended in the UAE only in October 2021, perhaps inducing viewer fatigue. Another was that, as COVID-19 restrictions eased, viewers went out to public venues to watch the matches collectively rather than staying at home.

Advertisers were concerned to the point of seeking compensation. In any event, the decline did not adversely affect the returns achieved on the bidding for the next IPL cycle, quite the contrary.

What is being illustrated is that cricket, particularly on the Indian subcontinent, is now capable of generating staggering sums of money for the BCCI and, in its train, for the ICC. It claims to have more than 1 billion fans who watch ICC tournaments, around 70 percent in India.

Siren voices warn that cricket’s authorities have turned the game into a financial behemoth, in which T20 franchise cricket prospers and squeezes out the longer forms. In turn, this reduces choice for the spectator, with administrators standing by, apparently helpless to intervene, but happy enough to collect the money.

They could start by involving the current players and then taking notice of them. There is a Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations to coordinate and voice player’s opinions expressed through national associations. Its relationship with the ICC can be strained and, remarkably, India has no association.

It seems to be assumed that players will not complain because they are highly paid, that spectators and viewers will continue to pay to watch, and that advertisers will continue to purchase time on the space bought by the media channels. Currently, this is a successful business model that breaks financial records and brooks no opposition.


World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
Updated 27 June 2022

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
  • She will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32

LONDON: World number two Ons Jabeur eased into the Wimbledon second round on Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund.
Jabeur, a quarter-finalist in 2021 and fresh from the grass-court title in Berlin, will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32.


2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
Saudi Arabia recently won the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan. (SAFF)
Updated 27 June 2022

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
  • The Young Falcons won the Kingdom’s debut U-23 Asian Cup title
  • Saudi women’s team took second pace in the WAFF Futsal Championship

RIYADH: The triumph of the Young Falcons at the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup and the recent successes of the women’s national team has marked yet more milestones for Saudi Arabian football this year, after the senior team qualified for the World Cup in Qatar and the Kingdom’s clubs rack up great results in continental competitions.

Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal said: “The success of the Saudi national teams demonstrates that our strategy is yielding positive results. Bringing back to the Kingdom the AFC U-23 Asian Cup for the first time ever with our very own Saudi national coach, Saad Al-Shehri, is a source of great pride and satisfaction.

“The players who achieved this great feat will be part of the main drivers of the success of our National Team going forward.”

He added: “This gives us greater confidence and trust in our younger generation, beside the achievements we had this year for both men’s and women’s football. We are working on developing a pathway tailored for every up-and-coming Saudi footballer on the grassroots level.

“We are working on extending a very large pool of Saudi talent with the support needed for the upcoming generations of Saudi football to match the highest professional levels of the game, be it in the technical and tactical aspects of the game, as well as the dietary, psychological, physical and athletic aspects.”

The U-23 victory comes soon after the senior Green Falcons team qualified for their sixth World Cup participation ahead of this year’s tournament in Qatar. Herve Renard’s team topped their qualification group, which featured continental giants such as Japan and Australia.

The Saudi Pro League continues to grow in quality and importance at the Asian level, with Al-Hilal currently the holders of the AFC Champions League title. This year, three Saudi teams are set to feature in the competition’s round of 16, with Al-Hilal, Al-Shabab and Al-Faisaly having topped their respective groups in the first round.

Earlier this month, the Saudi Futsal National Team also grabbed the silver medal in the West Asian Football Federation’s Futsal Championship. The Green Falcons demonstrated incredible quality throughout the tournament, before narrowly losing 5-3 to hosts Kuwait in the final. The team continued their fine run of form on the road reaching the quarterfinals in the Futsal Arab Cup taking place in Dammam following a thrilling 3-2 encounter against Iraq that ended their campaign.

Saudi women have also enjoyed their fair share of success in football this year. In February, the newly launched Saudi Women’s National Team played its first ever official games against the Seychelles and the Maldives, winning both games with the same 2-0 result. 

The Kingdom concluded their successful hosting of the 2022 West Asian Football Federation’s Women’s Futsal Championship in Jeddah, where the Saudi Women’s Futsal National Team made its debut in the competition and claimed a silver medal following a 4-2 defeat in the final against Iraq.


WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
Updated 27 June 2022

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
  • June 2022 had been dedicated to the legendary wrestler’s arrival on SmackDown two decades ago

RIYADH: Twenty years on from John Cena’s arrival on SmackDown, the legendary wrestler makes an appearance on RAW tonight, the highlight of the WWE’s month-long celebration of his career.

Cena has since those early days become a household name in the WWE, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The WWE had dedicated the month of June 2022 to the performer.

While his return opponent is yet to be announced, the WWE Universe is in for an action-packed edition of the red brand as Cena steps into the ring for a landmark match tonight.

A joint-record 16-time world champion, Cena has won the WWE Championship 13 times which is also a record. He is also a five-time US Champion, a four-time world tag team champion, a two-time Royal Rumble match winner, a one-time Money in the Bank victor, and has headlined many major WWE events, including WrestleMania five times.

His first US title win was in New York’s Madison Square Garden, opening the 20th edition of WrestleMania in 2004, and delivering two “Attitude Adjustments” to the “Big Show” Paul White. That moment solidified his status as a rising attraction for the promotion.

A year later at WrestleMania 21 Cena would challenge John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) for the main event which marked the first world championship win for “The Champ.” His “I Quit” match against the former champion at Judgement Day in 2005 is still considered a classic.

The main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 saw John Cena beat “The Game” Triple H clean in the middle of the ring to retain his title. One year later WrestleMania 23 featured the now dominant WWE champion rise against D-Generation X counterpart and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time — “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels.

The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest events on the WWE calendar, and Cena has been involved in many epic showdowns in that event, prevailing in 2008 and 2013 as the winner.

Many fans consider Edge to be Cena’s fiercest rival and their feud certainly elevated both men to new heights. Edge memorably cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a wounded Cena at New Year’s Revolution 2006 for his first WWE Championship win. Edge and Cena’s rivalry saw the two battle over the WWE Championship for the majority of 2006, and over the World Heavyweight Title in 2009. Their matches captivated WWE audiences, and both superstars have an outstanding 27 World Titles between them.

Cena has also crossed paths with Randy Orton numerous times in his career. During the 2000s the two were believed to be the top stars in the WWE. Between their first match in November 2005 and their last match in February of 2017, Cena and Orton faced each other 22 times in televised matches. The record between the two men is 13-7 in favor of Cena.

Cena faced the Rock for the first time at WrestleMania 28 in what was billed as a “Once In A Lifetime” match. The Rock defeated Cena in a 30-minute classic, but a year later Cena shocked the world at WrestleMania 29 by defeating the Rock for the WWE Championship.

Cena is also a winner of the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for 2018.


Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
  • The reigning Saudi and Asian champions need to match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin to secure a record 18th championship

DUBAI: Al-Hilal take on Al-Faisaly on Monday night at King Fahd International Stadium knowing that if they match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin, they will be crowned Saudi Pro League champions for a record 18th time.

It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions.

The Riyadh giants trailed Al-Ittihad by 16 points earlier in the campaign but a remarkable run of form in the second half of the season now sees them lead the SPL table on goal difference. A win tonight will guarantee the title, regardless of what the team from Jeddah, who have suffered a late loss of form and nerve, does.

Although Al-Hilal are strong favorites to defeat Al-Faisaly and claim the league title, Argentine coach Ramon Diaz will warn against any complacency, particularly as he will be missing the services of defenders Ali Al-Bulaihi and Jang Hyun-soo.

History suggests, however, that Al-Hilal’s fans will be celebrating tonight, having seen their team defeat Al-Faisaly 17 times in their 23 meetings, with the other six ending in draws.

Meanwhile, Al-Faisaly, in 11th place, go into the match still unsure of whether they will be playing top tier football next season, an indication of just how many clubs are still fighting relegation as the season comes to a close.

Having played 12 consecutive seasons in the Saudi Pro League, Al-Faisaly are flirting with the drop going into the last day, as they did in the 2016-17 season.


Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final
Updated 27 June 2022

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final
  • Victories over Egypt and Kuwait see the reigning champions and Iraq face off at the Green Hall in Dammam on Tuesday

DUBAI: Morocco and Iraq will meet in Tuesday’s final of the 2022 Arab Futsal Cup after successfully navigating their last-four clashes against Egypt and Kuwait respectively on Sunday night at the Green Hall in Dammam.

Morocco, who had beaten Libya in Friday’s quarterfinal, defeated Egypt 5-2 in their all-African clash, while Iraq — conquerors of hosts Saudi Arabia in the last eight — overcame Kuwait 2-1 in the other semifinal.

The 10-team tournament, organized by the Union of Arab Football Associations and hosted by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, kicked off on July 20, and is the sixth edition of the competition.

Previous winners include Egypt in 1998 and 2005, and Libya in 2007.