Guerilla Cricket wins radio rights to Ireland’s Test debut


Guerilla Cricket, the alternative commentary provider, has been appointed by Cricket Ireland to provide ball-by-ball commentary of their inaugural Test against Pakistan.

Guerilla, which was previously known as Test Match Sofa, has spent much of its existence fighting off legal threats from national boards and their broadcast partners. Commentating from TV pictures in the comfort of their own homes or studios – a policy the ECB and some other broadcasters feel contravenes and compromises rights deals – they have adopted a deliberately irreverent style designed to appeal to an audience either unable to afford subscription TV or left cold by the more formal Sky or BBC commentary.

While it is understood the BBC and TalkSPORT were also, initially at least, in discussions with Cricket Ireland, it seems that Guerilla’s commitment to broadcast every ball of the match proved crucial. Both the BBC and TalkSPORT have pre-existing obligations – TalkSPORT, for example, left their IPL coverage to cover races at Aintree – meaning they were struggling to provide such a guarantee.

It is also understood that Guerilla were obliged to pay a modest fee – perhaps amounting to little more than a few hundred pounds a day – to secure the rights for the Test that starts on May 11.

“When it came to ball-by-ball radio commentary of the Test Match it was imperative that we find a broadcast partner that would guarantee Irish cricket fans innovative, worldwide and uninterrupted coverage,” Warren Deutrom, chief executive of Cricket Ireland, said. “For such an historic sporting occasion, we believed the fans shouldn’t miss out.

“While a number of possibilities were assessed, what eventually won Guerilla Cricket the radio broadcast rights was their ability to deliver unique and uninterrupted coverage. For our fans this means that every ball and every key moment should be available.”

Quite what listeners in Pakistan will make of the Guerilla style – which includes jingles (the one for Mohammad Amir has been the noise of a cash register), a revolving door of commentators and guests and liberal use of swearing – remains to be seen. But a key characteristic of the service is a commitment to involve listeners through reading out as many of their tweets, texts and emails as possible.

While Guerilla have launched a funding campaign to ensure the best possible service – and Ireland player George Dockrell, omitted from the squad for the Test, is rumoured to have been recruited to add some insight to the commentary – they have also promised not to stray from the style that has earned them many long-term supporters.

“It’ll still be the irreverent commentary with which our long-term listeners will be familiar,” Nigel Henderson, a co-founder of the commentary team, told ESPNcricinfo. “Maybe we’ll try to be a bit slicker, but we won’t suddenly start talking about cakes and buses and all that stuff. And if someone says we can only swear twice a day well, really, who only swears twice a day?”

Either way, the news is a coup for a commentary company served by volunteers and which survives through donations from its listeners. Set up as Test Match Sofa a decade ago, the service has experienced many highs and lows including losing its founder and lead presenter, Daniel Norcross, to their BBC rivals, Test Match Special, while a partnership with The Cricketer ended in tears when the ECB applied increasing pressure to silence the broadcasts and key figures at The Sofa and The Cricketer fell out. Re-born as Guerilla Cricket in 2014, the somewhat iconoclastic commentary has retained a loyal support base and hopes Ireland’s first Test provides an opportunity to reach a new audience.

“We are grateful to Cricket Ireland in showing the foresight to allow a new form of cricket broadcasting to be heard in a mainstream context,” Henderson continued. “It’s the same kind of enterprising spirit that has enabled Ireland to develop so rapidly at international level. We are thrilled to be part of this historic occasion.”

error: Content is protected !!