Right now the Sydney Sixers are apparently playing the Perth Scorchers in a Big Bash League fixture at the SCG. I say ‘apparently’ because, even as a keen observer of cricket, I had no idea this match was being played. I only stumbled across it on Fox Sports Two on my way to Fox Sports Three, to watch the far more edifying clash between England and India – the final instalment in an enthralling four-match tour that has featured the renaissance of Kevin Petersen and Monty Panesar, the dying embers of Sachin Tendulkar’s career, and Alastair Cook’s unceasing accumulation of runs; all serving as an advertisement to the longest form of the game, and the value of longer tours that allow a proper narrative to develop between two sides locked in a more protracted arm wrestle.
The BBL game, on the other hand, was effectively killed off as a contest when Sydney slumped to 6-28 in the tenth over, before many punters would have even found their seats after patiently queuing for Moore Park’s deficient catering services. Maybe, though, the queues wouldn’t have been so bad considering the underwhelming crowds that have so far made their way to the BBL this summer. Only 15,000 turned up to the Sydney Derby last weekend, after 23,000 for the season-opening Melbourne Stars vs. Renegades clash. It looks another sparse crowd at the SCG this evening, too, for the grand final rematch.
Why is no one turning up? The obvious answer is ticket prices. An adult reserved seat to tonight’s Sixers game costs $35, general admission $20. A reserved family ticket sets you back $85. They aren’t outrageous prices, but if only 10,000 or so are rolling through the turnstiles, maybe it’s worth charging just a tenner for adults and a fiver for kids, in order to fill the stands and provide the carnival atmosphere that underpins the value of the T20 format. And talking of value, the venues need to play their part. Why would you part with $35 for the privilege of shelling $6 for a soggy bucket of chips, $5.50 for a cold hot dog and $8.20 for a stale Carlton Draught when you could slide into a pub or watch from the comfort of home instead?
Publicity is clearly another problem. An ad in a newspaper here and there doesn’t cut it. Facebook is an invaluable resource but the Sixers haven’t found their way into my newsfeed, while #BBL is hardly trending on Twitter. The biggest missed opportunity is Channel Nine – I appreciate that the Dots don’t broadcast the domestic T20 but as Cricket Australia’s marquee broadcaster, the governing body should leverage their relationship with Nine to publicise the BBL to a cricket-specific audience via the TV coverage of Test matches. It’s particularly important that the BBL deftly publicises these specific BBL fixtures, which are played on almost every day of the week, and therefore lack the week-to-week regularity of, for instance, the A-League (although the FFA will be concerned by a number of crowds around the untenable 6,000 mark this last fortnight).
The same criticisms apply to the Test match arena. A ticket to Day Four in Hobart tomorrow costs $38 and only a handful of Tasmanians will take up the offer. The crowd on Friday was bolstered by thousands of school kids who packed the hill. Again, on a working day, surely CA would be better off virtually throwing the gates open in a bid to get bums on seats. The players deserve it: after Australia’s gripping battle with South Africa, a resolute Sri Lankan team look set to provide a terrific contest for the rest of this series.