Sky Sports to screen World Cup final on free-to-air television

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The World Cup final will be screened on free-to-air television if England make the showpiece, Sky Sports has announced.

England will play either India or Australia in the semi-finals on Thursday and, if they are successful, the Lord’s showpiece will be broadcast to the widest possible audience.

The national team have been behind a subscription paywall since 2005 and Sky has exclusive rights to show ICC tournaments until 2024.

Sky UK and Ireland chief executive Stephen Van Rooyen confirmed the restrictions would be lifted, though it is not yet clear which channel would carry the match.

“We are proud to be the broadcaster for a home Cricket World Cup – one of the world’s biggest and most exciting sporting events,” said Van Rooyen.

“Our aim has always been to celebrate what could be a ‘once in a generation’ moment of a home team in a big final on home soil. So, if England reach the final, we will make the match available to everyone so the whole country can be part of a rare and special big sporting moment.”

England seamer Liam Plunkett found himself at the centre of the issue on Thursday.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live he suggested the squad were eager to reach the widest audience they could.

“You want as many people to watch it as possible. Playing for England you’re the pride of the country and you want people to be able to access that and watch that,” he said.

England booked their place in the semi-finals with victory over New Zealand.
England booked their place in the semi-finals with victory over New Zealand (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“It would be nice to go all the way and to have big numbers watching that final if we get through and win, that would be huge.”

He later took to Twitter to claim his comments had been misconstrued as a call for free-to-air, writing: “@SkyCricket are an incredible partner for the game and have been for the past 20+ years. I was asked a question & I never said that it should be on FTA. My words have been twisted & the headline is misleading.”

Sky has been described by ECB chief executive Tom Harrison as “cricket’s best friend” but there has been a growing interest in widening the sport’s visibility.

The appearance of the England Lionesses in the semi-final of the Women’s World Cup attracted 11.7million viewers on the BBC, while the cricketers’ crunch group game against India drew around one tenth of that number on Sky Sports.

The forthcoming £1.1billion rights package covering 2020-2024 will see some men’s and women’s Twenty20 cricket return to the BBC, as well as selected games from the ECB’s new domestic competition, The Hundred.

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