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CA looks beyond the baggy green

Daniel Brettig

October 26, 2011

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

CA CEO James Sutherland and chairman Jack Clarke discuss the Argus review, Melbourne, August 19, 2011
CEO James Sutherland will unveil CA's strategic plan while Jack Clarke steps down as chairman © Getty Images
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Australian cricket can no longer rely on the iconography of the baggy green to draw fans and players from an increasingly diverse community, the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has said.

On the eve of CA's annual general meeting in Melbourne, to be followed by the board meeting at which the chairman Jack Clarke will hand over his post to the former Test batsman Wally Edwards, Sutherland spoke to ESPNcricinfo about the body's strategic plan for the next four years.

Unlike the previous editions of the plan, it will not be titled 'From Backyard to Baggy Green', a tacit acknowledgement of how cricket must broaden itself to reflect Australian society, culture and financial reality.

Instead, the plan stresses the need for cricket to better reflect the wishes of fans, be they families with an entrenched annual pilgrimage to the MCG for Boxing Day, or recent immigrants with no particular affinity for the national team and its players.

"There's an element of truth that comes through in our research that shows there are a whole lot of people in Australia who don't necessarily relate to the Australian cricket team in the way that many other cricket fans do," Sutherland said. "That's largely because of their background, culturally in terms of coming from a different country or alternatively just that they didn't grow up with cricket as a sport and develop an affinity with the team.

"That's not the only way a fan can connect with and relate to cricket, there are lots of other ways. It could be in terms of grassroots, club or school cricket, or it could be in terms of entertainment, perhaps engaging with or supporting a BBL team and going along on a Thursday or Friday night to watch a BBL match and have a bit of fun and enjoy the game and follow your team."

"One of the critical parts of putting fans first is realising we've got a vision to be Australia's favourite sport, and to be that you need to be a sport for all Australians. If we want to lay claim to that, then we need to be able to boast a fan-base that is diverse and covers males and females, young and old and people from all backgrounds, cultural and others. We see the BBL can do that in an even better way than international cricket can and perhaps ideally it can also serve as an entrée to an appetite for cricket in other forms."

Strategy for Australian Cricket 2011-2015

  • The vision: To be Australia's favourite sport
  • Definition: Short-term target: No. 1 for viewership, fan passion, participation, and team success. Long term target: to be no 1 for share of all sport media voice, attendance and investment in the game.
  • Four-year imperative: Think big. Recognise we are in competition for fans, participants and the title of Australia's favourite sport and therefore aim to achieve significant long-term growth.
  • Grow and diversify our fan base, especially among young people and females, and increase their passion for the game. Also preserve cricket's traditional strengths and audience. Increase the agility, efficiency and performance of Australian cricket.
  • Pillars
  • Put fans first
  • Produce the best teams, players and officials in the world
  • Increase participation substantially and inspire the next generation of players and fans
  • Provide world-class leadership and management and unify Australian cricket
  • Grow investment in the game

The place of the national team remains honoured, as seen in the rapid implementation of recommendations from the Argus review. However Sutherland admitted its success was now seen more as a means towards the end of growing the game in Australia, rather than the end in itself.

"A sport like cricket, or rugby for that matter, where the national team is very much the flagship of the sport in the country, there will often be a temptation to judge the success and health of a sport by the performances of the national team," Sutherland said. "To a certain extent that is true, but we see the success of the Australian cricket team as being incredibly important, but not the only thing that is important and yes to some extent it means that it is a means to an end.

"The real health, the real indicators of how strong cricket is and how healthy cricket is, is the extent to which cricket engages with the Australian community and it does that on all sorts of levels, not just through the Australian team. Whether it's a junior participation program or the BBL or the Boxing Day Test, engaging with cricket fans and the Australian community is what we're all about."

The Twenty20 Big Bash League, to be contested in December and January directly opposite the Test series against India, is the boldest reflection of CA's push towards a wider audience. It is also central to another key theme of the plan - that of raising a greater amount of local revenue so as to make cricket more self-sufficient.

"There's no doubt we can look at some other sports in Australia and they have an element of self-sufficiency about them," Sutherland said. "Putting it a different way, having an ability to be in greater control of their own destiny. Not to say we're not, but there is a reliance on the global scene, on international cricket, on the ICC, on member countries and on inter-relationships and bilateral relationships between everyone.

"It's been something that has stood the test of time in cricket, but at the same time you do see situations where there are obstacles to things happening, and we see on one hand a mitigation of risk, but on the other hand as well, we don't have to the same extent as the AFL or NRL our own national league that offers high levels of fan engagement, and we really believe the BBL is a great opportunity to take that step of having a league that engages cricket fans but also to broaden our reach."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by hyclass on (October 28, 2011, 7:36 GMT)

One wonders where Sutherland is getting his information from.Recent studies show that cricket at club level has never been more popular in Australia.Its entirely cross cultural & a community exercise.Test & ODI matches in Australia are some of the best per capita attendances on the planet.One can only assume that given the entire absence of fact with regard to any actions taken over the last 4 years,that there is a not-so-hidden agenda.As the acronym,BBL appears repeatedly in this article,it must be evident that its the thorn that has been used bleed traditional cricket.From the moment that Argus was announced,CA hastily and clumsily convened the BBL competition,a year in advance of its original proposed introduction & ahead of adequate debate from protesting State bodies.Their purpose was to defeat any interdiction by Argus,who could well have questioned its integrity & validity on business principles alone.Only men with an agenda could have such a twisted view of traditional cricket

Posted by hyclass on (October 28, 2011, 7:24 GMT)

Not content to butcher the national side,fail to promote traditional & 1st class formats adequately,make random appointments without regard for accountability or performance,watch the national side littered with players performing well below par for years & fail to address the plethora of preventable injuries,Sutherlands galling 'push on regardless',self serving approach with the equally delusional Jack Clarke at his shoulder,set a standard for unprofessionalism that could only be highlighted by Argus,because they clearly havent been stopped.CA have unquestionably run the national team into the ground with policies that defy the explanation of even the least well informed cricket fan.Their agenda was to push BBL into the picture so that they & their interests could make business connections.Read Haydens public statements about his lack of 'investment'in traditional cricket while still a CA and QC Board member & his pursuit of a BBL ownership.These are the actions of brazen vultures.

Posted by   on (October 27, 2011, 6:48 GMT)

Instead, the plan stresses the need for cricket to better reflect the wishes of fans, Oh really James?.....so we are to have free entry to the grounds for all domestic cricket? And all cricket televised free to air? These two points are by far the most effective means of 'reflecting the fans wishes' and also spreading the cricket message to the potential new fans in Aust. So they head your plan for the next four years?.....no, didn't think so. All that blather about Bash cricket is so much hogwash....you STILL don't understand the fans, and never will probably.

Posted by waughjunior on (October 27, 2011, 3:11 GMT)

I have to agree with bobagorofs comments on this topic.I think Sutherland and the rest of his board are more interested in chasing the mighty dollar than enhancing the game.

Posted by   on (October 27, 2011, 2:53 GMT)

First the Baggy Green ... What's next? The Diggers, Gallipoli, the Outback, the Baggy Green is an intrinsic part of being Australian. Self harm me thinks.

Posted by   on (October 27, 2011, 1:56 GMT)

Sutherland's track record on things is not great. He isn't even bright enough to realise that the review of Circket in Australia showed how much he had failed. Now it's 20/20 or BBL or whatever the marketing twits want to call it. 20/20 is already falling off in interest in India, and is likely to be the case here. so rather than being forward thinking they are playing catch up. The problem when you try and make a sport just about entertainment, it just becomes a fad and fad's die quickly. All one has to do is look at Basketball in Australia. It was supposedly going to be the number one sport. Instead people who watched for entertainment rather than sport changed, numbers fell and it has been a mess since. I'm not saying don't be entertaining but focus on quality of players and you will get entertaining games.

Posted by   on (October 27, 2011, 0:56 GMT)

Does domestic cricket come under the anti-siphoning laws? If so then it is not the fault of CA for Fox that it is not free to air it is the fault of the free to air channels not bidding for the rights

Posted by Number_5 on (October 27, 2011, 0:24 GMT)

Would like to see what KPI's have been generated out of this process (how will they measure the success of what is being proposed). Id like to see the risks that have been identified, some posts have raised a few already (cultural) and also the opportunities (there is an untapped market and a growing one at that). anyone with business acumen knows what a SWAT analysis is, what we are being shown here is the end product, to truly see if CA understands the environment its operating in id like a bit more detail...7/10 CA not bad but room for improvement.

Posted by Ms.Cricket on (October 27, 2011, 0:05 GMT)

Sutherland is the last of the offenders still in their post who let Australia slip from its world cricket dominance - the others Hilditch, Ponting and Neilsen are mercifully all gone. He is talking delusional rubbish as the others used to. A new CEO may have more realistic vision than Sutherland claims to have.

Posted by Meety on (October 26, 2011, 23:55 GMT)

@bobagorof/Ben1989/ HatsforBats - re: Pay TV. I fully agree that domestic matches need to be shown on Free-to-Air stations. I always watched the Domestic 50 over comp when it was on Free-to-Air. The beauty of it was that it bridged the gap between the Footy season & the International cricket season, sort of like an entree. There is no entree into the cricket season unless you have Pay TV. Channel 9 could do more, by having a cricket show not just confined to Lunch time during a test. The Footy Shows are very successful outside of Game Time & it makes stars of out footballers. Back in the 1990s during the Rugby League Super League War, Rugby Union missed a golden opportunity to bury League. They had a great competition in Super 12s Rugby, & you were able to see the odd game on Free- to Air, they went totally Pay TV for the money & League got back up off the canvas. With all the extra digital channels - there is scope for some BBL games to be shown, prefer Ryobi cup or SS.

Posted by LiamF on (October 26, 2011, 23:08 GMT)

Yeah,I dont like the way he keeps singling out the BBL. I guess we all know that Shield and ODD cricket arent massive drawcards but not even giving them a mention doesn't help "stress the need for cricket to better reflect the wishes of fans". And I agree that having no free to air access to those games doesnt help. Cricket is an expensive game to follow, Test and ODI tickets remain really expensive (CA cant honestly be surprised crowd figures are down the last few seasons) and I'm not paying for FOX just for cricket. My plans for the next few weeks are the ODD at NthSydney Oval, the ODD at the SGC and day 1 of the Shield game at BankstownOval. It wont cost that much to get into any of them but adding in petrol/train costs, I dont live anywhere near any of them, hurts the wallet. I will watch the BBL (this year at least)but I noticed T20 tickets gradually increased each season, I hope just becuase they've expanded the comp they dont think they have the right to expand the price futher.

Posted by ygkd on (October 26, 2011, 22:16 GMT)

Further to previous comment - the game definitely needs kids from non-playing families. Ours was just that. Tried a number of clubs to get a spot in a junior comp for a son who was mad keen - none would look at him. The one that took him really had no room but offered a spot as a reserve anyway. They won that junior premiership that year and have won one every year since. The volunteer who made the decision to give him a spot and who helped deliver a run of premierships was largely brought to the game by his eldest kid. Country Australia would fall apart if it wasn't for volunteers and cricket is no different. Where footy steals a march on cricket is at the grass-roots, volunteer level.

Posted by ygkd on (October 26, 2011, 21:38 GMT)

A great mission statement for what sounds like a mission to Mars. Closer to home, one of the biggest problems is getting enough volunteers to actually run clubs and competitions. Only one third of the clubs in our bush association run a junior team in the oldest age group. The quality's good but any fewer and the whole thing would fold. Yes, we need to grow the game but it is best done from the ground up. Turning kids away because there aren't enough well-run teams to take them is a sure-fire way to kill grass-roots participation.

Posted by   on (October 26, 2011, 21:36 GMT)

with the exception of 2 weeks in January (the AusOpen) cricket pretty much has the monopoly on the Australian summer, but this focus will isolate some of the loyal followers such as myself who had their fill of hit & giggle cricket very quickly. Getting the Shield & Ryobi leagues out there should be the focus & the australian test team back to the top. The only problem with that is as the public sees who the actual good cricketers are Hilditch will look like an even bigger muppet!

Posted by bay_13 on (October 26, 2011, 21:10 GMT)

Lack of support in the latest ashes series? The attendance's were some of the highest of the 21st century. The WACA and Adelaide oval posted record crowds. Boxing day test had 85000 people attend on the opening day, and over 65000 for days 2 and 3. I certainly do miss the days where I could kick back on saturday/sunday and watch the ODD competition on free-to-air..but unfortunately it apparently makes more sense to put on 5 consecutive hours of The Celebrity Apprentice..

Posted by bobagorof on (October 26, 2011, 12:00 GMT)

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I can't disagree with Sutherland on the point about engaging the Australian community. However, As HatsforBats has indicated, Cricket is THE summer sport in Australia - despite domestic matches not being televised on free-to-air TV. They shot themselves in the foot there, but at least they're getting Pay TV revenue, right? The issue I have is with the idea that domestic cricket = BBL. It doesn't. I'm off to support NSW in an ODD on Sunday, but I won't set foot at a BBL match. Why are the other formats not being promoted? At all? I had a hard job trying to find out where NSW are playing - it's all BBL, BBL, BBL. I see that the competition has its place, but CA is dropping the ball (or the catch, as it were) with the Ryobi Cup in particular. If it weren't for CricInfo I wouldn't even know it was on - and I've been following it for 15 years!

Posted by Impactzone on (October 26, 2011, 11:38 GMT)

Lossanova you hit a nail on the head. Pay for view cricket on Fox is killing grass routes in the exciting end of the game, let alone offshore Test cricket. Season has started and there is a hopeless amount of marketing to the local TV stations vs AFL which is finished for the year. Even the soccer marketing guys are making more hay while they can and promoting their 'stars.'

If CA promoted to their mass audience rather than the perceived 'new' audience in a meaningful manner - ie the majority of the country - we would not have had the collapse of numbers playing in the youth ranks. T20 will help but not if its on Fox. T20 and SBS would have been a better mix if they really went after 'new' audiences.

If people don't know what a Baggy Green means in this country, then you have to ask why the hell not? Something we took for granted is now being thrown out the door as irrelevant.

Can ESPN publish the "A" Report word for word so we can all read it?

Posted by HatsforBats on (October 26, 2011, 11:16 GMT)

@ bay_13, I think you misunderestimate the English test crowds, while their grounds are smaller they are usually full. Who can forget the scenes of 2005 with crowds being turned away? There is always magnificent support there, unlike our latest series in Aus.

Posted by Mervo on (October 26, 2011, 10:58 GMT)

More money for the sponsors. This is all about money and not about Cricket. 20/20 is not actually cricket, it is 'cricket' for non-cricket lovers. It loses as many fans as it may create with its slog fest approach and banal irrelevance in the record books of the real game.

Posted by Gizza on (October 26, 2011, 10:26 GMT)

Well there are plenty of untapped ethnic communities within Australia to broaden the appeal of cricket. At Meety said, there is the Polynesian community both in Australia and New Zealand which prefer Rugby. Then there is Australia's own indigenous Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who prefer the winter codes. And let's not forget about those with mainland European backgrounds. Yes there have been the Kaspers, Katiches and Di Venutos an but I notice a lack or at least less Italian and Greek sounding surnames compared to other Aussie sports. And then there's the non-subcontinental Asian community and Middle Eastern community. I've had a few Chinese and Korean mates whom I played cricket with at school and club but as a percentage it is quite low. Likewise for Aussies with Lebanese and Turkish backgrounds. England is lucky in that their multicultural community is from predominantly former cricket-playing colonies. Australia's multicultural community is different.

Posted by Ben1989 on (October 26, 2011, 10:22 GMT)

Hatsforbats is spot on, the only reason I have pay TV is for the extra cricket, mainly domestic, but the other countries serious are great too (although SS would be awesome to have) I don't necessarilly want to pay $100 p/month for it, but I do... now that we have digital TV, domestic cricket including the odd SS game should certainly be put on free to air, the popularity would seriously increase, therefore more TV rights & sponsors (more money) & in turn would generate more crowds even at shield games (ie. someone who is watching the 3rd day of a shield game & can see the last day is going to be a cracker, is most likely to go & watch) at the moment, most fans would just check the score's every now & then (although I sit on cricket.com all day watching the commentary :P) but would have no idea how tense the gameplay may be as they just see end result... CA needs to do something about this...

Posted by   on (October 26, 2011, 10:12 GMT)

This is rubbish. Cricket is all about the baggy green. Intrest in cricket will rise when the cricket played becomes more entertaining. And any fan wants to see thier team win. Intrest in the 06-07 ashes was massive because we had one of the best test teams of all time and so the country should be putting more emphasis in turning our team into one of the best. Then we can play aggressive, entertaining cricket which the public likes to see.

Posted by Lozzanova on (October 26, 2011, 9:26 GMT)

The obvious way to attract fans is to get cricket back onto terrestrial free-to-view channels. Unfortunately, if it a choice between Murdoch's money and lots of fans being able to watch cricket, then fans lose out every time.

Posted by bay_13 on (October 26, 2011, 9:20 GMT)

Lets not forget that Australian test matches draw some of the biggest crowds in the game!! Boxing day every year brings in more than 50000 people and over 200000 for the entire test. Big test matches in India, Sri Lanka, England, South Africa etc very rarely ever seem to have many in the crowds. Like Australia vs Sri Lanka recently, the only people in the crowd were a school group and a tour group of australians! I think we're still doing pretty well..It still dominates our summer!!

Posted by HatsforBats on (October 26, 2011, 7:58 GMT)

So in a nutshell, CA's priority is to garner new audiences and more column inches by making the BBL its flagship vehicle? Displacing the "Baggy Green" as the ultimate honour (even in a literary sense) and replacing it with T20 will surely only be to the detriment of the skill set of younger generations, thereby ensuring our test team would never seriously challenge for top place. As a summer sport, cricket in Australia already has pride of place and the lion's share of media coverage, but it will never become the no.1 sport as long as domestic cricket remains in the realm of pay TV.

Posted by Meety on (October 26, 2011, 7:52 GMT)

I am by no means a fan of T20 cricket, obviously Tests rule, & I quite enjoy 50 over cricket. The key to what Sutherland is saying IMO is 20/20 is a vehicle to broaden the horizons of Oz cricket domestically. Oz has a large Polynesian community, who generally are heavily involved in the contact sports like League & Union, & some AFL. Almost 0% take up Cricket. This is just one section of the community.

Posted by alexczarn on (October 26, 2011, 7:30 GMT)

But the Baggy Green is the most iconic and the pinnacle of Australian cricket1 We CAN NOT compromise that!

Posted by   on (October 26, 2011, 7:30 GMT)

If they Really want to get more people to the Cricket make Big named Teams play where they know will get a large crowd example Comm-Bank Series SL , IND , AUS awesome teams yet not a single SL vs IND in Melb!!! please explain !!!

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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