The ECB will put “even more effort into The Hundred” once the current coronavirus crisis comes to an end, according to its CEO Tom Harrison.
Talking to a panel of MPs as part of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) inquiry into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on UK Sport, Harrison outlined the importance of The Hundred while also acknowledging that the ECB could lose up to £380million in the event of a summer without cricket.
“We anticipate, with no cricket this year, a worst-case scenario could be as bad as £380m,” said Harrison. “With a following wind, hopefully we will be able to play a significant number of Test matches this summer, which will helps us mitigate those financial losses that we are facing at the moment.”
Commenting specifically on The Hundred, Harrison explained that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, ticket sales for the competition’s inaugural season were encouraging. He said: “The game had never sold that number of tickets at that speed before, with the exception of the Cricket World Cup. We were in a very strong position to achieve exactly what we set out to achieve in terms of growing the audience for cricket in this country. The profile of ticket buyers was extremely encouraging – young adults and parents coming with their children.”
Harrison was pushed by the DCMS chair, Conservative MP Julian Knight, on the perceived unpopularity of the tournament among some sections of English cricket fans as well as its cost. Knight said: “There’s been widespread disquiet over the advent of The Hundred and the fact that there was a large outlay to bring it about. You’ve bet the house, effectively, on red and unfortunately, the casino has closed.”
In response, Harrison answered: “I wouldn’t categorise The Hundred as a gamble. It’s a profit centre for cricket as has been demonstrated. It was going to bring in £11 million of profit to the game this year. It carries with it an extra dividend to the counties, which is critical revenue to them.
“At a time like this, when we are facing enormous pressure on finances, it seems to me even more important we focus on the areas of the game which are going to generate interest, audience and commercial revenue. Especially with the weight of evidence we had behind The Hundred in terms of ticket sales.
“I understand there is significant resistance to The Hundred. There has been for two years. That does not make it a bad idea. Or an idea that’s not likely to succeed. We will put even more effort into The Hundred posts this crisis because I think cricket will desperately need, in a hugely competitive landscape, cricket will need to pull every lever to ensure cricket remains relevant in a society that has so much choice.”