MPs to Investigate Sky's Cricket Deal

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLES SALE

CAMPAIGNERS fighting for Test cricket to return to terrestrial television have won a significant victory by forcing a Westminster probe into Sky's monopoly deal.

The select committee of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are holding an inquiry on November 29, concentrating only on the four-year contract agreed between the ECB and Sky last February that runs until after the Ashes series in 2009.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell will face questions in the Commons next Monday as to why she allowed the deal to go through, ignoring the 1998 'gentlemen's agreement' between her predecessor Chris Smith and former ECB chairman Lord MacLaurin.

That pact was supposed to keep Test matches on terrestrial TV after they were taken off the list of protected events.

There are also 126 MPs across all parties who have signed the Early Day Motion opposing the Sky deal.

Former Channel 4 boss David Brook, founder of the keepcricketfree.

com website, said: 'This is a brilliant result for us.

We will now be able to ascertain why the DCMS approved the contract and why the ECB accepted it. The facts do not add up.

'For instance the McLaurin-Smith deal wasn't just a verbal gentlemen's agreement but is recorded in detail in Hansard.' An ECB spokesman said: 'We are pleased this inquiry is taking place so the matter can be laid to rest.'

The hope is that overwhelming pressure will lead to the voluntary compromise of Sky sharing some of the coverage with terrestrial partners - as happened in a Republic of Ireland football rights deal.

MANCHESTER CITY are going well in the Premiership but there is some controversy behind the scenes. Manager Stuart Pearce's personal assistant Julia McCrindle has engaged sports rights lawyer Chris Farnell to represent her in a likely industrial tribunal. McCrindle, who has worked for 17 City managers since Ron Saunders in 1973, has been off work suffering from stress since June, when she turned down a proposal to move her to the club's community department. …