Surrey scorer Keith Booth, writing in the Comment facility on this website, has questioned the workability and even the ethics behind a new deal between the England and Wales Cricket Board and data firm Opta Index concerning the production of live scores and other statistical information from county matches this summer.
Booth, responding to an article posted earlier this week by Andy Wilson, one of our team of county reporters, says he is concerned about how the new system will work in a pragmatic way and also about how it will be perceived in a wider sense.
Previously, the 18 county scorers and their assistants fed ball-by-ball live scores and other statistics directly to the Press Association who, in turn, provided this data to a host of clients – which included The Cricketer.com – but the PA have this winter lost their ECB contract to Opta.
Three points on the ECB-Opta contract
(1) It is a commercial deal. Scorers were not consulted but presented with a fait accompli. Consequently, there were a number of operational and logistical issues that were not considered.
(2) Opta were given the opportunity to ‘bolt on’ the role of analyst to that of those scorers willing and able to operate the system. They declined that option and chose instead to employ their own analysts. As a result, although scorers will work with the Opta people, there will be two versions of events – the one kept by the official scorers and the one transmitted to the outside world by Opta. With a bit of luck they should coincide, but duplicating the data increases the possibility of error and risks reducing the quality of service to the game.
(3) Top of the ‘market sectors’ served by Opta (according to their own website) is betting and gaming. This may be seen as sitting uneasily alongside the ECB’s anti-corruption code and its prohibition on the disclosure of inside information which could be used for betting. Betting of course is not synonomous with corruption, but it’s perhaps sufficiently close to be a matter of concern.