Welcome back to the Sports Roundup for 2021! It is set to be another big year in sport so let’s get straight into it with my Top 5 Sporting Moments of the Week followed by my analysis on the dramatic decline of the Big Bash League!
Top 5 Sporting Moments of the Week:
5. COVID-19 is still around
Unfortunately, a new year still hasn’t stopped the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, which is especially true for the sporting world. As sporting codes look to open up their stadiums again to fans, players and staff are continuing to contract or be in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Sporting matches in the NBA, NFL and Premier League have been cancelled or postponed in the last couple of weeks leaving leagues helpless. The dream of a stadium at capacity is still a long way away.
4. The NBA Season Restarts
The new NBA season kicked off last week filled with anticipation and the first two weeks haven’t disappointed. A shortened off-season filled with transfers has given teams and players less time to prepare and familiarise themselves with line-up changes. This has led the start of the season to be very unpredictable with highly rated teams such as the Denver Nuggets and Brooklyn Nets struggling to find momentum.
3. Its crunch time in the NFL
The NFL enters its final week of the regular season this week, but there are many remaining questions to be answered as the postseason bracket is filled up. The AFC South is still up for grabs between the Titans and the Colts, as is the NFC South between the Saints and the Buccaneers. However, the most hotly contested division has been the NFC East with Washington, Dallas and the New York Giants all still in contention.
2. Premier League Title Race Heats Up
Manchester United victory against Aston Villa on the weekend has now put United level with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table. It was only a couple of months ago when United were sitting in the middle of the table and fans were calling for the sacking of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after being knocked out of the Champions League. Now, they are challenging Liverpool with Tottenham, Leicester City and Everton not far behind.
1.India dominate Australia in the Boxing Day Test Match
India tied the Border-Gavaskar series 1-1 this week after securing a convincing victory at the MCG, with no Australian scoring over 50 runs and Australia not scoring more than 200 runs in any innings of each test match so far. Although India have lost Mohammad Shami to a broken arm and Umesh Yadav to a calf injury, they continue to bowl with consistency and determination led by Jasprit Bumrah and Ashwin. These are worrying signs for the Australian team who desperately need their batting group to step up for the third test in Sydney on the 7th.
Feature Article: The Failure of the Big Bash League
It used to be the highlight of summer sport. Everyone was talking about the Big Bash League and any household you visited at night in December or January would undoubtedly have the Big Bash on TV. But the cricket competition has lost all its hype. Stadiums are losing fans; TV numbers are declining, and the excitement of a fast-paced cricket tournament has been lost.
The Big Bash League started in 2011 where over half a million spectators made an effort to see the new competition live. Cricket legends such as Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden and Chris Gayle headlined various franchises as a new cricket era in Australia was born. The BBL has continued to advertise itself through big name cricket stars from around the world. This year, players such as Jason Holder, Carlos Braithwaite and Dawid Malan have been key international recruitments, but it’s not enough. Although they may be excellent cricket players, they aren’t household names.
When Kevin Pietersen joined the BBL in 2014, it was a massive signing. A household name with a plethora of cricket experience which resulted in crowds flocking to the MCG. This year; however, although Lewis Gregory is a great up and coming English cricketer, very few Australian fans know who he is and that provides no incentive for people to watch the games live or on TV.
Last season, the BBL averaged around 20,000 fans per game. This is considerably down from the heights of the 2016-17 season where stadiums averaged 30,000 fans. In 2016, the Big Bash League attracted the seventh-highest average crowd for a professional domestic sporting league, ahead of enormous leagues such as the La Liga in Spain. For a young, rising league, this surprising result provided an incredible amount of room to grow and expand.
But things took a drastic turn. A 30% drop-off in average attendance over two seasons left the league scrambling for answers. When looking for why the numbers have dramatically decreased, it is easy to blame inconsequential factors such as broadcasting rights moving from Network 10 to Channel 7 or the introduction of Kayo Sports and Foxtel. What is hard to say, and what is really happening is that people are not interested anymore.
A significant issue is the lack of constancy that has led to franchises looking completely different each season regarding their players. When the Renegades won the title in 2018, the squad they began their 2019 campaign with had 7 new players, more than half the team had changed. You may want to support the Melbourne Renegades because you are a fan of Dan Christian, but considering he moves teams almost every two years, do you then switch teams? Do you buy merchandise? Or do you just give up attempting to follow the circus of transfers?
The BBL has aimed to address the competition’s stale nature by introducing new rules into this year’s tournament. The Bash Boost, Power Surge and X-Factor are all new initiatives to improve the competition. Although I am yet to see any significant positive changes with these new rules, hopefully over time, they can be utilised more effectively. Still, these amendments look to have been aimed at those who already consistently watch the BBL, rather than attracting old viewers to return.
The BBL needs to slow down. 61 games in only 6 weeks is a jam-packed schedule that people can’t keep up with. The cricket schedule needs to be trimmed. The games need to feel urgent. There needs to be a belief that if you miss watching your favourite team play, you may have to wait another week to watch them. People will now happily miss a game because they know that they will most likely play again in the new couple of days.
The BBL isn’t the only sport being played in December and January. It’s no longer the summer of cricket but the summer of sport. If the BBL seeks to regain it’s domestic superiority and re-build the hype of the competition around Australia, they must make people want to watch it. Renowned international stars, decreasing players transfers and reducing the number of games can allow the Big Bash League to fill stadiums once again.