By Patrick Heisenberg.
It was recently announced that the WACA ground (Perth) has been stripped of hosting its annual test
match for the 2014/15 series against India.
This series will be comprised of four matches whereas generally the Australian test match summer
spans five or six matches. Resultantly the powers that be at Cricket Australia (CA) have deemed the
WACA to be the unfortunate fall-guy. It will be the first time “the WACA” has not hosted its annual test
match in almost 40 years.
This decision has been met with impassioned criticism from the sandgropers and general concern
from the wider Australian cricketing public. Cricket fans will never want their favourite and/or local
venue to miss out, especially one as revered as the WACA. Its reputation as a pace bowler’s dream
is resounding and omnipresent across the cricketing globe. It has also played host to some peerlessly
ferocious, tense and bloody battles over the course of its history.
Cynics have pointed to India and its questionable yet influential administrative juggernaut, the BCCI,
as the source behind this decision. I take issue with a great many things the BCCI do, or don’t do in
the case of DRS, and so too do a great many others. But in this case I believe the ‘enemy’, if we want
to be dramatic, or ‘source’ behind this decision is home-grown.
To underline my point we must first consider which venues will host matches during this series:
Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Now let’s look at their approximate patron capacities:
• Brisbane’s ‘Gabba’ has a capacity of roughly 42,000
• The Sydney Cricket Ground holds roughly 44,000 (the figure is presently difficult to define
amidst its current renovation period)
• Adelaide is being extended to around 53,000
• The M.C.G. is a well-known monolith, holding up to 95,000 seated spectators.
The WACA has a capacity of roughly 22,000. That’s around half the size of the smallest venue shown
above. CA’s CEO James Sutherland touched on my not so subtle implication when discussing their
decision. “Though a traditional Test match venue with a proud history, the WACA ground has the
smallest capacity of the five mainland Test venues and has historically attracted lower attendances,”
Now, without clarifying his exact thoughts, I wish to, tongue firmly in cheek, rebut the question “what
22,000 seat ground has higher attendances when compared with grounds that are 2-4 times the size?”
I presume he means that the attendances are lower “per capita”, and on this notion I pose the
question to the infuriated Perth public – “if you care so much, why don’t more of you show up when
you do have a test match?” I believe this is a fair question.
The days of cricket being a gentleman’s game that was solely focused on enjoyment and rivalry are
long gone. There are, to this very day, gentlemanly acts and also fierce rivalries, but behind these
fundamental principles lie the administrators and their KPI’s and monetary-based targets and goals
and views to expansion and global domination.
Test cricket makes money – a lot of money. It makes its money through ticket sales, advertising and
international broadcasting rights. If we accept the unfortunate but true notion that cricket is now
as much of a business as it is a sport, what governing body in their right mind would play a game
in a location that was known to produce less money? It is accepted and acceptable that when the
Australian cricketing calendar has six test matches scheduled for the summer that each of the six
main test match grounds are used. I speak, in this case, of the “one versus the other” selection criteria
for which grounds to use in this shortened test summer, when exclusion of venues is a relevant factor.
Do you choose the ground that looks old, worn and, on its absolute best day, can only seat half its
closest competitor? Or do you choose the ground that is newer, better, seats more people and thus
makes more money? As a passionate fan you pick your favourite ground and/or the one you envision
the biggest advantage or greatest tussle, as a businessman you pick the ground that prints the most
money, results be damned.
The times, they are a-changing. And they have been for a long time now. Western Australian
cricket must acknowledge the obvious and move ahead or this will continue to happen. I for one
love the WACA and would never want that, but if it were to I’d blame those at its helm and not the
businessmen who are currently being presented with a lopsided, weak argument for the WACA
compared to some very strong arguments against it. Money talks in this world, cricket is no longer an
Get to know Patrick Heisenberg on out About Us page.