Sunday, December 25, 2011
Watch on TV or go to the ground?
Spectators who last week went to the Gabba to watch the home team take on the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League (BBL) were denied the opportunity to hear and see this
Gideon Haigh in The Australian in his customarily incisive way has brought this, and its wider ramifications, to our attention
But had you been present at the ground, this would have eluded you, because Warnie was confiding in those who had paid at the virtual box office, not the real one.
Does this matter? The pragmatic line now is that crowds are so twentieth century: that the TRP (television ratings point) is today's turnstile, and the couch the nation's grandstand. And in a financial sense, television audience reach is certainly a salient indicator.
Ticket sales today account for less than 10 per cent of Cricket Australia's revenues. Their diminished relevance was recognised by CA's decision in April 2005 to yield to Channel 9 on the matter of broadcasting live "against the gate", which commanded a one-off premium at unquantifiable cost to patronage of the live experience.
Grounds themselves are nowadays pervaded by a television consciousness too.
Where once cricket coverage was accented to conveying to the home viewer what it was like to be at the match, now the opposite is true: the profusion of advertisements, the liberality of replays and the incessancy of music are directed to replicating the televised experience for the live spectator.
Yet is this a contributor to the emerging dynamic of a game with a large but growingly distant public? For why would I go to a cricket ground for a kind of washed-out replica of what I could see at home?
Certainly, it never seems to have dawned on administrators that part of the pleasure in attending cricket is escaping the enforced passivity of over-advertisement-over-advertisement endured at home in favour of the freedom to look where one pleases and think what one chooses.
For many years, it was possible to admire the Australian commitment to the interests of the live spectator, compared, for example, to England. We charged relatively little for admission, maintained stable schedules, ran big, welcoming and characterful grounds.