Today we are starting to see the fallout from the poor crowd numbers at the first two Big Bash games at the SCG and MCG – 12,000 at the former, 23,000 at the latter. It would be disappointing for Cricket Australia to have such numbers, but it hardly means, as Greg Baum suggests, time for them to abandon the concept and go back to the drawing board. The Big Bash is hardly a failure for not having attracted people to pass over their cash at the gate as well as set aside some time in the week before Christmas.
Crowd numbers aren’t what they used to be for sporting organisations. This is especially the case for rugby league, where crowds of 10,000 – 15,000 at the ground are typical – and even home town derbies between Parramatta and Canterbury at the Olympic Stadium attract 25,000. Where it means it all for the NRL is the television rights and the numbers of viewers. Those viewer numbers are still strong in NSW and Queensland, as Roy Masters likes to point out in articles that continue his permanent anti-AFL crusade. If Masters compared NRL crowd numbers with AFL crowd numbers, he’d cry into his beer (bought, no doubt at a “fibro” area pub).
This is why the Big Bash crowd numbers don’t mean as much as Baum suggests. He also mentions the various stunts that have been done to promote the game – but again, advertising doesn’t necessarily equate to crowd numbers. Most have been designed for TV numbers. The advertising of the Big Bash series has, to my eyes, been relatively low key. A few posters, the occasional TV ad. To cricket watchers like Baum, it’s probably been huge, constant and possibly annoying – but to the general public, it’s been about the concept of the game, rather than “get to the game at this venue at this time”. This is especially the case in Sydney, where a significant proportion of a potential crowd for a Sixers game wouldn’t be able to get to the SCG by 7pm on a Friday night.
In addition, the price structure of the tickets for the Big Bash tell me that they aren’t serious about getting large crowds for the games. It’s a brand new competition in domestic cricket, yet they want people to shell out $40 for a reserved seat in a grandstand. That’s not a tempting price point. The message they should be sending out is that T20 truly is a game for the people and that there are no restrictions on the non-member areas of the grounds. Every seat $20, or if you have kids, a family pass for $40. Sit anywhere you like – except the Members’ areas. They did that for the first domestic T20 games at Homebush – but it seems they have reverted to the old model somewhat for this competition.
It’s a good concept, this competition, as I said yesterday. It is much better than 50 over cricket in its appeal. I think Baum and many cricket watchers are jumping the gun too quickly with their doomsaying.