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HomeAustraliaRant: Poor Crowds, Crap Ratings. Is Cricket Australia Happy?

Rant: Poor Crowds, Crap Ratings. Is Cricket Australia Happy?

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Last Updated on 5 years by Charbel Coorey

Rant: Poor Crowds, Crap Ratings. Is Cricket Australia Happy? A look into how Cricket Australia sold its soul for the dollars.

Australia’s home season is about to begin. Excitement captures the nation. The cricket season is back. Channel Nine, broadcaster of the cricket for four decades, is the channel on home TVs and workplaces. If you weren’t able to catch the action on TV, you had the radio.

The most important thing is that everyone knew the cricket was here…

… Well, that’s what used to be.

The start of Australia’s 2019/20 home season has to be the most pathetic, underwhelming and low-key start in memory. To trump last season’s low-key start against South Africa is some achievement, but to do it by such a distance is damning.

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“Hey, did anyone know the cricket was on?”

Family and friends were stumped. Pun intended. So too Australian fans on social media.

Was there a game on? Who is playing? Who made the Aussie team? T20Is in October? Since when?

The $1.2 billion deal Cricket Australia landed in the winter of 2018 blinded their judgement. The cash got in the way. Who cares about fan engagement, right? The long term impact of engaged fans? The tradition of starting a home season with Test cricket?

Fine, T20 is very popular. At least make the games easily accessible to families? No, says CA. It’s the instant gratification that means most.

What does Cricket Australia have to say about this?

From the anticipated start to an Australian summer to this. It is unacceptable that fans in the country, who follow the sport closely, have no idea that Australia is playing.

Cricket Australia has its KPIs, of which the financial requirements dominate. However, they are failing badly in a very important KPI = fan awareness and engagement.

The numbers prove it

Why did so many fans come dressed as empty seats in Adelaide? And Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney?

Less than 12,000 fans attended the second Australia vs Sri Lanka T20I in Brisbane on October 30. Three days earlier, the first match of the international summer drew 16,268 people at the 53,500 capacity Adelaide Oval. Those who knew the matches were on perhaps couldn’t attend due to peculiar scheduling, ticket prices and other commitments.

But, the lack of promotion is incredible. So many fans didn’t even know the games were on. It shows in the TV ratings. Less than 200k tuned in for the first session of the third Australia vs Sri Lanka T20I.

This is the start of a new season, for goodness sake. Doesn’t it mean anything anymore? It is almost as if Cricket Australia is sitting on its $1.2 billion bed, without a care in the world.

“Quick, look for a spare seat…”

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Fan engagement = the real billion dollar deal

Unfortunately, Cricket Australia does not seem understand that fan engagement is critical to the future of the sport in this country.

Every single international match in Australia should be accessible to the public. Instead, Cricket Australia has sold its soul for the dollar, with poor marketing, engagement strategies (if any) and scheduling that the Australian public simply isn’t buying right now.

Determining how engaged the fans will be should be taken into consideration when discussing these big TV right deals. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. It is all well and good counting the big bucks, but is it worth what we are seeing now? How will Cricket Australia, down the track, encourage parents to get their kids to take up cricket?

This applies to myself, and many others, as I fell in love with the game at a young age and started playing after watching countless hours of action on Channel Nine.

The start of the international summer was like a showpiece event. It was always associated with an “accessible to all” mindset, also known as “A fair go” as we Aussies like to term it. Cricket, Australia’s national sport, continued to thrive because of it. There was nothing better than family and friends gathering around the TV, enjoying each other’s company over food and drinks, taking in the action. Channel Nine was the only channel on TV when the cricket was on, and don’t anyone ever dare change it.

Now, if you don’t have Foxtel, you’d probably miss out on the action. If you even knew it was on. If you love the game so much that you need to watch it, you’ll flick it on your smartphone. Where is the message of inclusion in that? What are CA doing to try position the new summer as a big event in this country? The below tweet, from last year’s opening ODI against South Africa, shows how CA has lost touch with its audience.

Compare the poor crowds and ratings in the October T20Is to Free-to-Air ODIs from a few years ago. With the rise of the BBL, attendance to ODI matches have taken a hit, given that fans perceive the BBL as a more family-friendly option.

However, the TV ratings were still strong. In 2015, before the World Cup, an ODI between Australia and South Africa attracted just 14,177 to the MCG. However, nearly one million viewers tuned in to watch. In early 2017, an ODI vs Pakistan saw 1.2 million viewers tune in.

While the crowds may have been down, the viewers weren’t. Importantly, the cricket was in front of many eyes, which is always important to the future of the product.

Sadly, what Cricket Australia have done is employed a short-term focus, interested only in gratifying their desire for the big dollars, at the expense of fan accessibility and engagement.

What the Sri Lanka and Pakistan T20Is have told us is that something is broken, and it needs to be fixed. However, with five years (including this year) remaining on the current broadcast deal, change might not be so imminent.

One can only hope Cricket Australia is taking down notes and undertaking a review into why season 2019/20 has suffered such a poor, low-key start.

Rant over.

Written by Charbel Coorey, CricBlog

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Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. He is also a keen fantasy sports player. Charbel has also had the privilege of interviewing cricketers on the CricBlog TV YouTube channel, including James Neesham, Rassie van der Dussen, Andrew Tye, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat and Saurabh Netravalkar: https://www.youtube.com/@cricblogtv For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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