Australia news October 26, 2011

CA looks beyond the baggy green


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."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher 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

  • Christopher 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.

  • Dummy4 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? 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?, didn't think so. All that blather about Bash cricket is so much STILL don't understand the fans, and never will probably.

  • clint 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.

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Dummy4 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

  • Chris 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.

  • Prem 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.

  • Andrew 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.

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