The Big Bash League is possibly the most successful thing Cricket Australia has ever done.
It destroys all comers in the ratings on TV, monopolises school holiday entertainment, raises debate at barbecues and training grounds around Australia (I’ve nearly come to blows with teammates over which half of Melbourne to support), allows players to come to the crease with flashy black bats, and gets a kid eating a watermelon to be the second most popular Twitter topic in Australia.
It almost literally gives CA the right to print money. It is a near bottomless well. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Big Bash teams could serve up the blockathon we saw with Steve O’Keefe and Peter Nevill, and we’d still lap it up.
Unsurprisingly, expansion is high on the agenda. An article by Sam Landsberger in Wednesday’s Herald Sun said that:
Cricket Australia looks set to flood next summer’s calendar with more Big Bash League games in the first move towards expanding the tournament.
And the timeline for introducing new franchises has been brought forward – though the competition will remain at eight clubs for at least the next two years.
The chief executive of the Melbourne Stars, Clint Cooper, called for a full home and away schedule of 14 games. This could lead to games on Christmas Day or being expanded into regional areas.
Cricket Australia means well with this, I’m sure. But it’s not a very good idea.
One of the biggest problems with this is crowds and a congested fixture.
There are 35 matches to be played in the BBL season, and CA has, rightfully so, spread it throughout the school holidays. In Victoria, that’s 42 days.
Two of them are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and games can’t really be played on those days. CA has also decided that they’re not going to play matches on the same days as Australian ODIs, which eliminates five days this summer, taking the total to 37.
That’s 35 games in 37 days. Since the minimal break required between games is 2 days, and they’re not playing semi-finals on the same day, the 3 games of the finals could be played over a four-day period, two days after the last game of the regular season.
That congests us to 32 games in 31 days, which is a ridiculously overcrowded schedule. It’s helped by Perth playing their games later in the day, but that’s barely enough. If you want to expand the Big Bash League, then you have to either play multiple games on one day or expand out of the school holidays.
Playing multiple games on one day could expand the fixture. With two games a day over the 31 days, we’d comfortably be able to spread out the 56 games over that period. However, one of the strengths of the Big Bash for TV is that it’s broadcast in prime-time, without which there would be a lot less viewers. And some of those games would have to be played in the afternoon, both limiting the TV audience and the crowd one (since parents wouldn’t be able to take time off work). So, it would have to be spread out.
In my house, I’ve never been able to go to sporting events on Monday to Thursday, because I usually end up home just before midnight, never good before school. I’m surely not the only one who deals with this, and that would mean lower audiences in the crowd (and on TV, due to bedtimes). This wouldn’t work for CA.
That’s just with keeping eight teams, but expanding the number of games. What if the competition was expanded?
We’ll assume that Geelong and Gold Coast are the teams that get a license. Also, we’ll go with the likely assumption that CA declares each team only has to play every other team once.
That’s 10 teams, playing nine games each. This makes 45 games for the season, and we encounter the same problems that we had in the first one, if not as extensive.
An economic bubble is when the prices for investments or stocks keep getting higher for no decent reason, and then suddenly collapse.
There was the Dutch tulip bubble in 1637, there was the Florida land boom in 1926, and the dot com bubble of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Big Bash League is like a bubble, or possibly a balloon, as it can be inflated and deflated at will. At the moment, it’s a very large, but stable, bubble.
The problem Cricket Australia has is that they really want to expand the balloon, but they can’t really do that without it popping. Their other option would be to drastically reshuffle the competition, but it would end up resembling a completely different balloon.
They love the BBL, but are in danger of smothering it too much.
Keep calm, Cricket Australia, and leave the Big Bash be.