IRELAND’S HISTORIC FIRST Test match against Pakistan this summer is on course to be a sell-out, but it won’t be broadcast live on terrestrial television despite considerable interest from overseas.
Cricket Ireland has reported strong ticket sales three months in advance of the inaugural five-day match on these shores and as anticipation builds, the organisation is looking to maximise every potential revenue stream.
The construction of a temporary 10,000-seater stadium at Malahide, which includes changing rooms, corporate hospitality and media facilities, is expected to cost in the region of €450,000 while the overall running cost of a Test match is close to €1 million.
While ticket sales and hospitality packages will foot some of the bill, the process of tendering television rights both to the domestic and overseas markets, as well as securing commercial deals such as in-ground naming rights, are key off-field targets in the build-up to a historic summer.
Event management company Pitch International are currently engaging with potential broadcasters on behalf of Cricket Ireland with a view to selling the live television rights around the world, and with several interested parties, an announcement is expected in due course.
But the visit of Pakistan between 11-15 May will not be carried live on Irish domestic television with both RTÉ and TV3 yet to express an interest which means either Sky Sports, BT Sport or eir Sport are likely to acquire the rights for the UK and Ireland region on a pay-per-view platform.
Cricket Ireland are hopeful of securing a deal with an Irish free-to-air channel to show a daily highlights package, but as of yet the national broadcaster hasn’t shown any interest in providing cricket coverage with BBC Northern Ireland the most likely candidate.
“The Test match will definitely be broadcast as there is very, very strong interest from overseas, including Pakistan,” Dennis Cousins, Cricket Ireland commercial director, told The42.
“In terms of terrestrial TV in Ireland, that’s just not going to happen for us in terms of live coverage. Let’s be honest, RTÉ are never going to free up the schedule for five days to show a Test match or even a Twenty20.
“What we’ll be hoping for over time is to get some sort of highlights package on domestic TV and as the sport grows here, that’s a point we’re trying to get to. You’d hope they [Irish broadcasters] would look at that as we’d like to see it happen and it’s high up the agenda for us.”
While the sale of television rights will be finalised closer to the time, Cricket Ireland is in the final stages of closing out deals for in-ground sponsorship for both the Pakistan Test and Twenty20 series against India in June.
That process will see the title sponsorship rights being sold to an Asian-based sports agency, who will then in turn distribute advertising space to different companies in Pakistan and India, as was the case for last summer’s triangular series involving Ireland, Bangladesh and New Zealand in Malahide.
As for the ticket sales, nearly 4,000 have been pre-sold for the first two days of the Test match while all corporate hospitality tickets for the opening day have been sold, with Cricket Ireland set to transform Malahide into an international venue again much like it was for the visit of England in 2013.
“We’re hoping to have in or around 10,000 for each of the first two days,” Cousins continued. “A lot of people want to be at it because it’s a piece of history and we’re really confident of a big, big crowd.”
Additionally, the two T20s against India at Malahide on 27 and 29 June are on course to be sell outs with 5,000 tickets pre-sold already, just two weeks after the fixtures were confirmed.
The added interest from spectators has also been complemented by further engagement from perspective commercial partners — both from home and abroad — since Ireland’s ascension to full membership and Test-playing status of the ICC.
“There’s definitely more interest,” Cousins explained. “The platform is now much bigger, and there’s more visibility — but just because you have Test cricket doesn’t mean the phone is going to start ringing the next day.
“We’ve had quite a lot of interest from Asia as large Indian companies are interested in match sponsorship rights and we’ll make an announcement on that soon.”
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