(Reuters) – The Cricket World Cup final at Lord’s on July 14 will be shown on free-to-air television in England if the hosts reach the final, Sky has said, after widespread criticism over the lack of free-to-air coverage of the sport’s biggest event.
England’s matches at the Cricket World Cup have been seen by fewer than a million people on subscription-based Sky’s channels, while daily free-to-air highlight programmes have been shown around midnight, likely reducing the viewership.
In contrast, more than 11 million viewers in Britain tuned in to the free-to-air BBC to watch the England women’s soccer team in the semi-final of the World Cup in France, making it the country’s most widely viewed broadcast of 2019.
“Our aim has always been to celebrate what could be a ‘once in a generation’ moment of a home team in a big final on home soil,” Sky UK and Ireland chief executive Stephen van Rooyen said on Sky News.
“So if England reach the final, we will make the match available to everyone, so the whole country can be part of a rare and special big sporting moment.”
England secured their place in the last four after beating New Zealand by 119 runs on Wednesday and will finish the group phase in third place behind Australia and India, who both have one more match to play.
The semi-final fixtures are not yet decided but should England win their match, it will be their first appearance in the final of the tournament since they lost to Pakistan in Melbourne in 1992.
The group phase ends on Saturday with India playing Sri Lanka and Australia taking on South Africa, after which the semi-final lineup will be decided.
Fourth-placed New Zealand will be the last team in the semis unless Pakistan beat Bangladesh on Friday by at least 316 runs – a near impossibility. After 35 of their 50 overs, Pakistan were on 197 for 2.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)