It is rare that a piece of news makes me so angry that I can not bring myself to write about it. That happened yesterday though when I read about Cricket Australia’s changes to its media rights deal for radio. Having reflected on it overnight, my anger remains but I am also left with an empty feeling. That feeling has its genesis in the realization that what I thought might be true is coming to reality: Cricket Australia is killing the domestic game in this country.
For those who missed it amongst the all of the focus on Michael Clarke’s back and Buddy Franklin’s contract, here is a potted summary of the new arrangements that will be in place henceforth for the broadcast of cricket by radio in Australia:
1. A commercial radio group will have joint rights with the ABC to broadcast Test Matches.
2. All internet streaming of cricket in Australia will be controlled by Cricket Australia.
3. The BBL will be broadcast on an FM network.
4. The Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup will NOT be broadcast by anyone.
Taking the first three points first: I still have the option to listen to the ABC for the test matches so I am not all that bothered by these changes. I will never listen to a BBL broadcast on the radio because frankly I have better things to do and why would I stream the cricket when I have a perfectly good radio?
It is the fourth point above that both angers and saddens me. Gone, it would seem, are the days of the ABC broadcasting Sheffield Shield cricket. Are you kidding me Cricket Australia? Actually that is a hyperbolic question because we all know that you are not. After all, broadcasting the Sheffield Shield on the ABC, indeed any cricket on the ABC for that matter, makes you no money because the ABC is banned from advertising on its broadcasts. Once again the dollars lining the pockets of Cricket Australia has trumped what is good for the game.
Why though is the broadcast on the radio of the Sheffield Shield so important you ask? It is simple: short of going to the ground (or watching the live stream without commentary on the Cricket Australia website) there is no other way of engaging with the domestic game in this country. I, for one, was introduced to the game at the top level as a child by listening to Grandstand while working in the yard with my Dad or by listening to the coverage whilst nervously waiting to bat myself at the grounds around Ipswich.
This year, all of those kids that love cricket out there will get from their governing body at a domestic level is hit and giggle nonsense. More to the point if you were a playing of first class cricket in this country at the moment would you not be feeling more than a bit like the metaphorical ugly bloke with bad acne and body odour standing alone in the corner at a school dance? First the Ryobi Cup competition is made into a regional cricket carnival that no one can attend and now the pinnacle of the domestic game, the Sheffield Shield, has essentially been made inaccessible to the fans.
I am all for a business operating profitably. I am all for making money: hell I work in insolvency so I am more than aware of the importance of cash flow. However, is it not the case that Cricket Australia is the steward of the game in this country first and a profit centre second??? This decision is just another example of how that position has flipped.
A final point: it strikes me that it is now time for the fans of cricket in this country to rise up and regain control of the game that we love from those in control at Cricket Australia Towers. The only way to do that is to vote with our wallets and feet and turn the wave of profitability into a mill pond. So I pledge here and now that I will not spend another cent (I have already paid for my Ashes tickets) on anything Cricket Australia related until we see institutional change at the top of Cricket Australia. Now you may scoff at that gesture but having spent close to $2,500 on my obsession with cricket in this country in the last calendar year (I added it up and you should too: tickets, travel, merchandise, food etc adds up) if I could get 10,000 fans to sign up to this campaign that would leave a $25 Million hole in the pot of gold at the end of the Cricket Australia rainbow. That is something that might make them think don’t you think?