Spectators still crucial to JCA
Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) President Wilford ‘Billy’ Heaven is keenly watching the ongoing biosecure Test series between hosts England and the Windies to see what can be replicated and implemented locally, with the association planning a resumption of competitions soon.
The Raise The Bat Test series is being played without spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning there is greater focus on broadcast viewership. While a negative impact of this is no gate receipts, it however increases television viewership and associated contract revenue.
Cricket in the Caribbean has struggled for crowd attendance for a number of years, mainly because poor results from various teams have meant a waning interest from fans. But could a focus on building television audiences at various levels of the sport negate the effects of poor turnouts at matches?
Sports publicist Tanya Lee says the issue with such an idea is that marketing in sports, locally and regionally, needs improvement.
“I find these associations just assume the fans will come, and that’s quite an ambitious assumption,” she said. “What they need to do is to get the players in the press, social-media promotions, interviews in prime time, give away tickets, bus young cricketers in to watch.”
Heaven says if more focus was to be given to broadcast viewership, it would be a longer-term strategy.
“The outcome of the biosecure environment in the UK will help us to see if it forms a part of the future,” he told The Sunday Gleaner. “I do not believe that it should, out of necessity that it is happening now, replace physical presence at cricket matches.”
Heaven says that broadcasting is indeed crucial because it allows regional cricket to reach larger audiences, especially globally, but the atmosphere of being at a match cannot be replaced.
“Having spectators at the park is very, very important,” he said. “It brings a certain vibe, a certain life, spirit, to the game. It provides entertainment, it provides income. It helps to build the interest of the game, especially among young people. It helps spectators and fans to see their heroes and maybe react with them, as opposed to seeing them on TV. It brings a different perspective to the game.
GROW THE GAME
“My preference would be to grow the game with television rights. That’s a big part of it because you reach more people, but you also seek to fill out your stadium. When you bring in schoolchildren, you get them more interested in playing the game. It’s a different feel being at a park, having a drink, having lunch, having tea right there in the stands, talking to a friend right there beside you, turning up with a group and so on. It’s a different feel rather than watching on television. It’s really two different experiences. You see more things on TV in more detail, like replays and so on.
“Both things are important. While we’re having a match, for example, here in Jamaica, we as Jamaicans would turn up at the venue but the rest of the cricketing world would also have the benefit of seeing that match (on TV). So to me, I believe both things will reach more people and that is where and how we should concentrate.”
The JCA recently announced plans for strict sanitisation protocols when its competitions resume, but until the Government removes the ban on spectators at sporting events, these competitions, like the Raise The Bat series, would be in a similarly biosecure environment.