The Ashes, a five-Test series cricket tournament played between Australia and England, may be canceled, causing broadcasters and sponsors to worry about potentially losing millions of dollars in revenue.
Last Sunday, Cricket Australia briefed its English counterparts on what to expect during the 11-week-long tournament via video conference. Australia’s strict regulations around families traveling to the country irked key players from team England. And without the big names, the Ashes may not go ahead as planned.
With a global audience of approximately 80 million—this year’s Super Bowl attracted 96.4 million—the tournament is a huge revenue generator for England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia. The financial cost of a canceled tour will be considerable for stakeholders in both countries.
Cricket Australia makes $145 million from broadcast, sponsorship and ticketing for the five-Test series. “I think it is safe to say that you could double that to factor in losses in the UK from broadcast and sponsorship deals should the tour not go ahead,” said Conrad Wiacek, head of sport analysis at GlobalData. “BT Sport will want to be reimbursed the £80m it spent to show the Ashes, should the tour not go ahead, and sponsors and commercial partners will also want their money back.”
Typically, the tournament drives significant revenues through advertising. “In the UK, an England soccer game will drive the highest sort of value. Something like cricket potentially a bit less, but it will still be a significant chunk of change, and advertising agencies will be having conversations with broadcasters if [the Ashes] doesn’t go ahead.”
Aside from broadcasters, Wiacek said sponsors such as Andy Murray’s Castore, which recently signed a 10-year jersey deal with England worth more than £25 million, will want to discuss possible changes to contracts considering this news.
Australia has restrictive entry laws surrounding COVID-19. Travelers to the country are required to quarantine for two weeks upon entry and must adhere to restrictions when entering certain states. Last month, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said there would be “no special deals” for the families of England’s cricketers. But he said he wanted the Ashes to take place as scheduled at a press conference during last month’s Quad Leaders’ Summit at the White House.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, cricketers have been playing in bubbles. England has played 12 away tests while India and Pakistan each played 11. Australia has not played any away games.
The 2021-22 Ashes series is planned to kick off on Dec. 8 in Brisbane, the future home of the 2032 Olympic Games. The tournament will move to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, finishing in Perth on Jan. 14 if the state’s quarantine regulations change by then. Team England’s decision is expected to come at the end of the week.
Cricket Australia and ECB declined to comment for this article.