What cricket fans have to say about F1 as the BBC turns its back on them


British sports fans can watch F1 - but not cricket - on the BBC in 2009

British sports fans can watch F1 - but not cricket - on the BBC in 2009

Most British F1 fans I know are delighted the sport will return to the BBC next year. But many cricket fans have reacted with anger to the news last week that their sport of choice will no longer be on the same channel – and lashed out at the corporation taking the F1 rights instead.

Here’s a sample of the complaints from last week’s Times letters page:

The BBC recently paid millions for Formula One, but will not pay anything, it seems, for any form of cricket. Why should I pay my licence fee? Formula One is poor by any standard of sport. In fact, is it sport? Ian Dilworth, Suffolk

It’s always interesting to hear non-F1 fans’ views of the sports – especially when they’re so strongly put! Here’s more:

Does the BBC not realise that for the youngsters of today following the cricket is much more to its advantage than the “glamour” of Formula One? F.D. Sturdy, Darlington

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke had this to say:

How many people play Formula One? There are 19 million cricket fans, 2.5 million men and boys and 900,000 women and girls who play the game. Surely they have a right to expect public service broadcasters to mount bids for the nation’s summer sport?

That line of argument seemed to go down well with the commenters on this cricket blog.

I’m no fan of cricket – but my parents both are and I have a certain respect for it.

I think a lot of the remarks along the lines of ‘F1’s not really a sport’ stem from ignorance. F1 fans understand very well the enormous physical demands piloting an F1 car makes of a top-line driver. But to someone who doesn’t know the sport it looks no harder than driving a car.

F1 drivers have to be super-fit. Jenson Button compte in triathlons, Mark Webber runs a 350km trek/bike/boat race across Tasmani every year, Jarno Trulli contests marathons and so on.

The “how many people play Formula 1?” argument is another statement born of ignorance. How many F1 drivers went straight into the sport without participating in motor racing at some other level? None. Most, if not all, will have started their careers in karting – which large numbers of British youngsters (to say nothing of children in other countries) will have had experience of.

I imagine the debate about what the licence fee should go on holds little interest for readers outside Britain so I’ll confine myself to one point on this – if coverage of any sport is going to be publicly funded, it should be one that would be most compromised by having adverts during the coverage, and I would place F1 above sports that have natural breaks such as football and rugby in that respect.

Finally, I loved the idea implied in the second quote that F1 is “glamorous” and nothing else. There’s someone who’s never stood at Copse, slowly getting soaked to the skin…

As ever I’d like to hear what you make of these criticisms – particularly if you’re a cricket fan!

How should the BBC cover F1 in 2009? Here’s a few thoughts.

Thanks to Alex for the tip

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45 comments on What cricket fans have to say about F1 as the BBC turns its back on them

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  1. Robert McKay said on 14th August 2008, 12:07

    The ECB can’t talk: they sold out their own sport by taking Sky’s millions and therefore significantly reducing the reach of the sport to its fans. The only reason they wanted the BBC to bid was to push up the price and make Sky pay more than they had to. They are hypocrites of the highest order.

  2. Alianora La Canta said on 14th August 2008, 12:16

    It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of the cricket supporters who think F1 isn’t a sport think football (at the level broadcast by TV) isn’t a sport either, but a political/business mess that happens to about a bunch of competitions. Cricket has certain traditions that mean that marketing-orientated stuff tends to either be done really carefully or get a lot of complaints from cricketing purists.

  3. diseased rat said on 14th August 2008, 12:18

    As a fan of both sports I agree entirely with what Robert has just said above. Sky has paid silly money for the cricket and they are welcome to it, that is the reason it’s not being bought to the masses, nothing whatsoever to do with F1 or the purchase of F1.

  4. Dougie said on 14th August 2008, 12:20

    I think Robert has pretty much summed up the situation very well.

    I am definitely NOT a cricket fan, but my brother-in-law and his son are, my nephew plays very well for his local team. Therefore I give the sport some respect without watching it. I do feel though that the fans have been short changed here, and with regards to “how many play…” it is a lot easier and cheaper for kids to get into Cricket than Karting.

    However, as Robert said, whose fault is this really…

  5. Formula 1 is one of the most popular sports in the entire world, drawing in huge numbers of the viewing public. Three top line F1 drivers – Hamilton, Coulthard and Button – are British and one is fighting it out for wins and the overall championship. Most teams are British or British based – McLaren, Renault, Red Bull, Force India, Williams and Honda.

    However, attending a Grand Prix can be a fiendishly expensive business and so only a fraction of the viewing public will be able to afford to regularly attend.

    What better use of public money than to bring such an expensive, inaccessible sport to the British public?

  6. Journeyer said on 14th August 2008, 12:25

    Simply put, the ECB can’t have their cake and eat it too. And when the ECB showed where their priorities were, the BBC was just replying in kind.

    I’m more interested to hear what the cricket fans have to say, though.

  7. I’m from India, I’m a big fan of both the games! But personally, being a student of automobile engineering, I love F1 little more than cricket! But the comments posted here are normal consequences of such a shift, who knows – if BBC switches back to cricket on 2020, we may react the same way!

    Considering heritage and being so easy to play even at your backyard… cricket, obviously has great number of audience. Hence these responses! They love their game, and they stand for it, nothing to be taken hard!

  8. ajokay said on 14th August 2008, 12:54

    “The BBC recently paid millions for Formula One, but will not pay anything, it seems, for any form of cricket. Why should I pay my licence fee? Formula One is poor by any standard of sport. In fact, is it sport? Ian Dilworth, Suffolk”

    Did you think that all £130-odd of your licence fee went straight to cricket, Ian of Suffolk?

    I’m sure there’s plenty of things on the BBC that you don’t like, but do fund with your money.

    I for one am perfectly happy to see my telly money going to F1 rather than cricket (even though the last race in Hungary was just as dull as any game of cricket).

    Its just nice that the Beeb snapped it up instead of Sky, as there’s no way I’d ever pay money to Sky to watch anything (with adverts as well!?!) F1 or not.

  9. Steven Roy said on 14th August 2008, 12:55

    “Does the BBC not realise that for the youngsters of today following the cricket is much more to its advantage than the “glamour” of Formula One? F.D. Sturdy, Darlington”

    Is it not more beneficial to the youth of Britain to watch teams based on multi-national co-operation rather than the us against them attitude of international cricket?

    I assume these people who still think it is the 1950s think kids today watch too much TV. Is it not better that they watch a couple of hours of F1 then spend 3 or 4 more hours discussing it on the internet before going outside to play than to sit for hour after boring hour, day after boring day stuffing their faces with crisps watching cricket?

    Is it not better for them to be watching a sport where they will learn about technology, business and the broader world than one where they listen to stupid old men giggling over infantile double entendre and learn about silly mid off?

    Is it not better that today’s obese generation of kids watch a sport that may just inject enough enthusiasm into them to jump off the couch as Massa’s engine blows or Lewis drops it in the gravel rather than a sport where they sit close to a permanent vegatiative state watching someone spending half the day rubbing a cricket ball into his groin?

    Cricket is without doubt the stupidest most pointless game ever created. How can anyone invent a game that takes five days to play and then ends up without a winner? Cricket should be banned and the pitches converted to kart tracks.

  10. The ironic thing about all this is that BY FAR the best way to experience cricket from home is to listen to the BBC’s Test Match Special on the radio – so much so that, if you do happen to have access to the games on TV too, you’re well advised to turn the sound down on the telly and leave TMS on the radio.

    If the Beeb’s coverage of F1 is even a fraction as good as Blowers and CMJ and Aggers then we’ll come out of this very well indeed.

    We’re not hopeful.

  11. Journeyer said on 14th August 2008, 13:09

    Easy there, Steven. I’m sure the cricket fans would see it another way. Let’s remember, most non-F1 fans think F1 cars just go round and round…

  12. Robert McKay summed it up in one. If the ECB wanted cricket on the BBC (or, for that matter, any other terrestrial channel), they have always been welcome to. But they took Sky’s money instead. And then they wonder why youngsters aren’t getting into it? I, too, am a borderline fan of cricket, but the ECB are the people who took it away from me in the first place, so they are in no position to complain.

  13. Scott Joslin said on 14th August 2008, 13:24

    I think Cricket is going through a period where it is almost schizophrenic, between it’s grass routes and traditions and the modern changing face of the game which involved a lot of commercial investment. There is and has been recently, a large investments of money pured in to the game globally in a bid to make it more exciting and appealing to sponsors. The creation of the Indian Cricket League in particular, which is almost based on the English Premier league football model of paying the players vast sums of money paid into the league by TV channels and corporate backers a has added the “Glamor” to the game and is attracting the big name cricketers from around the world.

    BBC has not had any live Cricket for years, but it has had even less 4 wheeled motorsport during the same time frame, and I don’t hear us motorsport fans complaining that we shouldn’t pay our licence fee. (ok, perhaps a few of us did as emotional knee jerk reactions in 1996 when it was announced)

    Keith, on your point about the sports that are best suited to commercial interruptions such as adverts, being allowed to move to commercial TV channels, I tend to disagree. I think the national TV channels (such as BBC) have a right to show sport that encapsulates the majority of the country – eg Football/Rugby/Cricket/F1.

    However with the market forces driving the cost of TV rights spiraling due to competition from Satellite channels this has taken Football, Rugby and now Cricket. The BBC has been left with making a decision based on percieved interest for the majority of the nation and we come back to the Lewis Hamilton factor for this.

    Unfortunately the Cricket fans comments are correct, more people probably do play Cricket, however more people, in my opinion, probably share an interest in Formula one, and that is why the BBC has chosen to take F1 over Cricket.

    I think us F1 fans should be very happy that the BBC has gone with F1 and not Cricket, because the other alternative would have been to go to SKY and that would have meant we had to pay £40 per month to see it, and have adverts for the privilege.

    Interesting at the time this news broke ITV announced that TV ad revenues were falling and they were expecting poor results for 2008 and 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7544447.stm
    An indication that advertisers are pulling the strings in on commercial sponsorship on sporting events. It was these events which I feel let to the BBC nipping in to take the F1 rights in the first place, and using up the majority of its budget.

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th August 2008, 13:29

    I’m not sure if F1 has been in serious danger of going to Sky, as the manufacturers are very keen that it remain free-to-air for marketing reasons. They may not get everything right, but let’s give them credit when they do.

    One thing my dad did mention when i talked to him about this was that he felt Sky had pushed forward he quality of cricket coverage and BBC had been playing catch-up. They have made some noises about doing something special with F1 next year, but no firm details yet.

  15. I’m no cricket expert, but my dad is obsessed with it and has been all his life. He attends a lot of games and loves it. He reckons that if the BBC had outbid Sky for the cricket rights, there would have been a backlash among football fans, who would complain that the money could have been used to keep football on the BBC, instead of going to ITV (where the coverage is poor), or pay-per-view Sky and Setanta.
    Cricket fans need to realise that you can’t please everyone. If the BBC can’t justify buying cricket rights, then that’s that. They have an obligation to serve the viewers, and they obviously believe the cricket is overpriced.
    I also don’t see how cricket fans can blame F1 for Sky’s purchase of the rights. Sky made the highest bid. The BBC weren’t willing to match it, with or without F1. Simple.
    Using the licence fee is a poor excuse to demand cricket, either. The chances are that cricket fans’ £130 a year isn’t paying for F1 – it’s paying for Jonathan Ross.

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