Sharing sport

Why cricket clips help sport, and why cricket boards might be starting to see this

Today the chairman of Cricket Australia, Earl Eddings, commented cricket's most famous YouTuber, Robelinda.

It was about Robelinda being banned from Youtube - essentially losing his archive - for uploading cricket content. Robelinda's channel was being accused of violating Cricket Australia's copyright.

Eddings admitted he watched Robelinda's pirated video. This is a moment for cricket. Not that long ago that Giles Clarke, then ECB chairman, stated that piracy was the biggest threat to cricket. He also sent cease and desist letters to test match sofa (now guerilla cricket) to stop watching games and broadcasting their commentary.

I can understand why if you are trying to make money - to grow the game - from the broadcast rights, that piracy is annoying. But no one who can afford to pay to watch cricket would use illegal streams; they're hopeless. Poor connection, Russian domains, commentary out of sync, ads over the cricket and constant stoppages. And the most basic thing is that if people are so desperate to watch your product that they will steal it, then you must be in a wonderful spot to begin with.

Clarke's view is held by many inside sports - this isn't a cricket thing. There are companies that specialise in taking content off YouTube using copyright violations. And they've been around for years. Baseball and premier league also use them.

Almost 12 years ago, I started downloading ECB highlights and recutting them my way. I was trying to show the story of the day, but make them funny and good to look at. They got popular for about a month before they were all taken down.

It was then that I realised it was fairly useless to do this; it was a waste of my time. So many many people are there like me out there? People who love cricket, have some editing skills and are discouraged.

Younger people are on YouTube and TikTok. And casuals are on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  These are the groups that cricket boards tell everyone they are desperate to find. They are scrolling through their phone, waiting to be converted into cricket fans. So let's flood them with cricket content, let's ensure that they have to watch all of Waqar Younis' Yorkers, Rashid Khan wrong’uns and Ian Bell cover drives. I don't know other stuff too. Because this is the thing, the cricket boards have made better content, but there are more of us and we aren't restricted by making our players look good.

There is nothing wrong with what the cricket boards are making, but there isn't enough, and there never will be.

Since this tweet England have made their highlights slightly more watchable, but it's still not really YouTube or social media style content.

And you can't compare what any cricket board do to what NBA fans do.

And that is because the NBA turns a blind eye to this.

The NBA is a different sport. I think basketball is a lifestyle brand as much as a sport. And they grew the game years ago and are now reaping the benefits of that. Cricket has barely ever grown the game - we have less than a Test nation join for every decade.  Recently the ICC cut the funding to associate nations after 15 years of growth.

So if we aren't going to grow the game by making cricket bigger in China, Brazil, Japan and Oman, or with women, then we have to win people over another way.

Recently I tried to find footage of some women's matches - World Cups - and I couldn't. That's an own goal of idiocy. Don't tell us you support the women's game if we can't find it online and trapping it on user-unfriendly websites is as bad.

Instead what cricket - and many other sports do - is put their hope in pathways systems and their own marketing departments. If you sell the online rights to a website, you can make some money. But it's not a billion-dollar business. The actual money in all sports is from the live broadcast or streams.

Do you know what clips do, they advertise the footage and the coverage. You are stopping people from being able to make you more revenue and fans into the future.

And I use the word clips on purpose. We must save the live stream that helps cricketers get paid, coaches, sectors and moves cricket forward. But because they claim the money doesn't mean that boards own cricket.

Who owns cricket, it should be a simple answer, cricket fans do. That moment where Perera or Stokes make those big innings, that is ours. It only matters because of us, it is only worth something because we say it is. Yet boards think they own it, we have no say in how cricket is run, and when we try share it to our friends - and remember, Robelinda isn't trying to make money - they claim it back. It is theirs, not ours.

They are wrong from a moral standpoint, and as I argued before they're wrong in a sports marketing viewpoint. Growing the game is ultimately how you make money.

Here is one of my favourite stories from cricket. In 1996, Cricinfo was one of the biggest websites in the world. Not in sport, but of all websites. It was a volunteer site run by fans. They went to the ICC and offered to give it to them for free. The ICC said no as they didn't understand the internet or want to be involved with fans.

The ICC or any cricket board still doesn't have a website as big as Cricinfo, and today the site is worth between one and two billion USD.

But what Eddings comments show us is that people are coming through in the game starting to get this. Eddings is a northern suburbs boy like me - fun fact, he may well have been one of my swimming instructors - who loves cricket and wants to watch it. He's a different breed from the more socially media illiterate chairman around the world. If Eddings is what is coming, then maybe there is hope that cricket - and all the protectionist sports should be able to progress.

It isn't just Eddings. When I went on one of my twitter rants about this a cricket board contacted me about my ideas.  Another time I've had chats with people from the ICC about it. There are people in the machine who think like this. We tend to think of sporting bodies as monsters, but there are good people there - some superfans like us - who wish things were better. It just hasn't changed policy.

Other sports are looking at this. Some are trying to develop video editing options on their sites. And it won't be long before these things happen. Because whether it is Robelinda, Desi_Robelinda or just some kid in his bedroom, these people are helping spread sport. And isn't that what we all want, for as many as possible to have this in their lives.  Uploading sport clips is not a violation; it's a veneration.