Thousands of cricket fans in Ireland and Zimbabwe were unable to watch their respective countries clash in Harare on Thursday after a rights issue ensured the game was not broadcast in the two territories.
With two further T20 fixtures to take place on Saturday and Sunday, before a three-match One Day International series beginning on Wednesday, concerns have been raised that further fixtures will not be accessible to fans in the countries involved.
On Thursday evening, the hosts won the first T20 by one wicket in a thrilling contest that went down to the last ball in Harare. The game was the first international played under floodlights in Zimbabwe.
The game was broadcast on Fancode on the Asian subcontinent, but fans in Ireland could only watch via a stream on the gambling website Bet365. This required setting up an account with the bookmaker and depositing a minimum of €5. There was no legal broadcast available in Zimbabwe, on television or via a streaming service.
In international cricket, the broadcast rights for bilateral series belong to the host governing body. Zimbabwe Cricket sold the rights for their home matches to Total Sports Marketing (TSM), a Bangladesh-based company which subsequently sells the rights to broadcasters in different territories.
On its website, TSM advertises that it holds the “on-ground rights” to “all home cricket series of Zimbabwe Cricket for the period of 2015-2023”.
The last time Ireland toured Zimbabwe, in January of this year, the rights for the Ireland and UK market were sold to FreeSports. However, on this occasion no agreement was reached with any broadcaster or streaming service.
Zimbabwe Cricket has recently streamed domestic matches on its YouTube channel, while Cricket Ireland did the same for a recent international women’s series with Scotland.
Cricket Ireland declined to comment on broadcast rights belonging to a rival governing body.
The International Cricket Council, the game’s global governing body, also declined to comment on rights held by a national governing body.
Zimbabwe Cricket and TSM did not reply to comment requests.
The two sides clash again on Saturday with the match starting at 11am Irish time.