Entertainment & Arts

TalkSport take overseas cricket rights from BBC

England's Mark Stoneman batting against New Zealand in March Image copyright AFP
Image caption England's Mark Stoneman batting against New Zealand in March

The BBC has lost the rights to cover England's upcoming cricket tours of Sri Lanka and the West Indies on radio to commercial broadcaster TalkSport.

It is the first time since 2005 that the BBC's Test Match Special has lost the rights to an England overseas tour.

"I know our loyal @bbctms listeners will be very disappointed," wrote commentator Jonathan Agnew on Twitter.

Scott Taunton, CEO of TalkSport owner Wireless Group, said winning the rights was "a great victory" for the station.

"I'm delighted that we will be with England fans for every ball of the day throughout these winter tours," he added.

The free to air rights cover the Tests, one-day internationals (ODIs) and T20s for the tours that start in Sri Lanka in October and the West Indies in early 2019.

Test Match Special will, however, continue to broadcast England's home summer series through to 2024.

A deal agreed last year will also see domestic and international cricket shown live on BBC television from 2020.

Image caption "Aggers" said he hoped he could "still provide news coverage" about the tours

Many cricket fans have reacted with dismay to Agnew's retweet of TalkSport's announcement, with one calling it "a national disgrace".

"This is literally the worst thing I have ever read on Twitter," wrote another.

Yet some fans have been more moderate, with one calling on listeners to "give TS [TalkSport] a chance before passing judgement."

In his own post, Aggers, as he's known, stressed the decision was made by the Sri Lankan and West Indies cricket boards and not the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board).

TalkSport's cricket coup follows News Corp's 2016 purchase of its parent company in a £220m deal.

In a statement, the BBC said: "We put forward a competitive bid for these tours but it was unsuccessful on this occasion.

"We're disappointed because we know how much cricket fans value our coverage. We are still the home of cricket on the radio, as we demonstrated during the Ashes last winter.

"This summer, all England's matches will be live on Test Match Special, and we have a long term deal for all England's home internationals through to 2024 as well as rights to the next three Ashes series, both home and away."

The ECB declined to comment on the decision.

Analysis by Amol Rajan, BBC media editor

Image copyright AFP
Image caption England's Joe Root during a recent Test Match against New Zealand

For devotees of Test Match Special - an international club comprising hundreds of thousands of people, if not more - the sound of Jonathan Agnew and his colleagues isn't just part of summer. It is the summer. That is why today's news has caused shock and dismay. Fans need to be aware it could be a harbinger.

Read more of Amol's blog here.

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