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Matt Maher: Ashes brand is also taking a real battering

It hasn’t been the greatest few weeks for BT Sport.


              
Australia's Scott Boland celebrates the wicket of England's Joe Root
Australia's Scott Boland celebrates the wicket of England's Joe Root

Not only has the broadcaster had the misfortune of seeing most of its live Premier League fixtures postponed due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

It is also now saddled with the problem of how to promote the final two Tests of an Ashes series which to even the most fanatical of cricket fans look about as appetising as a four-day-old turkey sandwich.

BT are thought to be paying around £80million for the rights to Australian home Test matches over the next four years, of which the Ashes is by some way the most attractive part.

Interestingly, that is thought to be around £20m less than it paid for the previous deal, which ran from 2016 until earlier this year. At the current rate of travel, you would anticipate the value of the next rights deal being some way lower still and that is precisely the kind of thing, more than anything else, which will have the game’s administrators – and the under-fire ECB – particularly nervous.

After all, it isn’t only the England team taking a battering Down Under. So too is the Ashes brand.

This is supposed to be the premier series in Test cricket but it has not been anything close to a contest. Through three Test matches England have barely landed a glove on the hosts. So bad has it been the surprise would be if things got better, rather than worse, over the remaining two dead rubbers.

Making a decent fist of away Ashes series is hardly a new problem for England. In three of the last four tours they have failed to win a match. Since the turn of the century they have lost 22 out of 28 Test matches on Australian soil.

This winter is has been on a different level altogether. Viewers do not want to watch a one-sided fight and as interest wanes broadcasters will not keep paying big money to screen them.

A common joke in Australia after previous Ashes maulings has been offering England only three Tests on the next tour. Right now, that would be justified. If the alarm bells are not ringing at the ECB, they never will.

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