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Tory minister refuses to commit to free-to-air 'crown jewel' status for England cricket matches after World Cup win

Adam Forrest

Culture minister Jeremy Wright has refused to commit to adding cricket to the “crown jewel” list of live sport on free-to-air television.

It follows calls by MPs for the Cricket World Cup and the Ashes to be made available to a wider audience following England’s triumph against New Zealand at Lord’s.

Asked if major cricket tournaments should be elevated to the same status as Wimbledon, Mr Wright said it was important not to cut off the sport’s existing revenue stream from pay TV.

“If we want to see the kind of success that we saw … then you have to make sure that the funding is also there,” the secretary of state for culture, media and sport told the BBC.

Mr Wright said he wanted to balance "the money we need into the sport at the grassroots level and the professional level … against wanting as many people to see cricket as we can get.”

Writing in The Telegraph following England’s last gasp victory at Lord’s, Mr Wright said it was up to cricket bodies to “encourage as much live sport to be as accessible as possible, whether that’s on free to air or other public sources” without compromising income from pay TV deals.

Novak Djokovic’s victory in the men’s final at Wimbledon was watched by 9.6 million viewers, eclipsing the combined total of 8 million people who saw England win the Cricket World Cup final on Sky and Channel 4.

Labour MP Clive Efford, a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee member, was among those calling for crown jewel status. “Let’s have more cricket in terrestrial TV for the sake of the next generation. These players deserve to be household names not hidden away on pay to view TV.”

Tory MP Tracey Crouch, the former sports minister, suggested the growing popularity of women’s football following widespread BBC coverage showed why a rethink in broadcasting policy was needed.

“I really think that given the viewing figures for both the women’s football World Cup and men’s Cricket World Cup final, sport needs to reflect on whether broadcast deals should be about the money or the impact of more people watching,” she said.

A peak audience of 11.7 million viewers watched England’s defeat to the USA in the Women’s World Cup semi-final earlier this month – a record for women’s football.