Saturday, 31 July 2010

What Has Happened To Test Match Crowds?

England are in a massively strong position against Pakistan.  It has been a cracking test match so far - showing all the intricacies that make test match cricket such an enthralling spectator sport.

However, as Alan Lee pointed out in an excellent Times column yesterday (behind a pay wall sadly, so no point linking to it) the crowds seem to have dwindled.  This seems extraordinary.  The weather in Nottingham has been splendid.  Pakistan are genuine top tier opponents.  The cricket has been great and the football season hasn't yet started. But still, there have been plenty of empty seats.

This has to be worrying.  Perhaps, as Alan Lee speculated, the Ashes has become such an obsession for England test matches that other series, unfairly, have taken too much of a secondary position.  Maybe cricket hasn't promoted this series with the vigour that it should have done.

There is also, of course, the fact that counties seem to see test match cricket as something of  a cash cow. Prices for test match tickets have rocketed in the past few years, with some tickets costing as much as £100.  At a time when everybody is having to tighten their belts, test match prices are reaching the point where they are too expensive for too many people.

Test match cricket must be careful not to price itself out of the market.  At a time when test matches are losing global interest to 20/20, cricket authorities need to do their best to fill grounds and introduce the joy of a day at a test match to newer, younger audiences.  Selling tickets at premium prices is not a way to encourage 'walk in' supporters or market such a tremendous product.

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