Notes on Victorian Cricket Attendances
Russell Degnan

The MCG is perhaps the best barometer of crowds because it has both the best data, and is almost impossible to sell out, even when being renovated. There is actually less of interest here than you may think, but it is worth collating occasionally to see.

Start with two graphs. Figures are derived from the MCG, news reports and Austadiums. Not all sources are consistent, but the figures are close enough for this purpose. The first three seasons of the Big Bash are estimates on the Austadium site, but probably within a thousand or so.

  • Test crowds are basically constant within the bounds of opposition. This season was down, as Sri Lanka is a weak draw-card, but next season will be up, as the Ashes adds 25-30,000 to the base average.
  • One-day crowds are either trending down, or made up of two relatively flat lines, with the introduction of international T20 causing a drop of 5-10,000 per game. The combined aggregate attendance of international limited overs cricket is basically the same as it was before IT20: about 100,000
  • One anomaly is the drop in support for English limited-overs cricket. 2006-07 had a unusually large ODI crowd (79,000) but the 2010-11 T20I was consistent with the average for other teams (58,000)
  • The International T20 match has shown a significant drop in attendance, from 80,000+ against India in 2007-08, four years of ~60,000 and down to 40,000 this season. If any figure stands out, it is that one. Next year will be interesting.
  • Domestic T20 has increased the number of games year on year without a significant drop in average (~24,000 at the MCG, 13,000 at Etihad). That has propelled the aggregate attendance to the top of any format, indicating significant pent-up demand for more local games.
  • Conversely, the average BBL attendance dropped this season despite this being an under-whelming January of cricket. This doesn't match what happened in 2009-10 which saw a big increase in average attendance, followed by a big drop when England was in Australia.
  • 2009-11 is better discussed in relation to show-piece games (Vic-NSW was followed by 43k) and performance related, consistent with the economic literature on domestic crowds. The season just gone is less clear: outside the two derby games, the Melbourne crowds were weaker than expected, particularly before Christmas, even with both teams doing well.
  • It is very difficult to make any conclusions, good or bad, about BBL crowds or trends.
  • The next two years will be interesting for attendance, but not necessarily representative either. There is a clear shift away from international limited-overs cricket to domestic cricket; but international attendance is strongly correlated with opposition, so both formats ought to recover with England and India in town.

A final thought: the aggregate attendance of all formats has jumped from around 250,000 to 400,000 in line with an increase in high-profile matches (with apologies to the Shield and ODD Cup) from four to more than a dozen. The average number of people at each event has decreased, but the fan in Victoria has a lot more cricket to go to, and does so. Definitely a good thing.

Update:

I chanced upon another source of daily crowd figures on the MCG site, and by using the wisden almanac, have produced a long-range graph of crowds in Melbourne over 30 years. The key take-away is that Boxing Day has become ever more important, and ODIs have steadily declined, starting in the mid-90s. Note that I didn't include the average for the non-Boxing Day test of 1989-90, for which the 5-day aggregate attendance was 68,865; though it was less than 19,000; figures missing: ODIs: 1990-91 (2), 1984-85 (1) and 1980-81.

The nadir of test match crowds was an almost washed-out match against South Africa (1993-94) although the worst years were behind. Note that ODI aggregates vary wildly from variations in the number of matches played by Australia. Nevertheless, the long-term trend for ODI crowds looks bleak.


Idle Summers 14th February, 2013 21:47:29   [#] 

Comments

Notes on Victorian Cricket Attendances
I've often though that T20 would be a much better game if it were just played domestically, in the itinerant leagues that have sprung up around the world. It just doesn't seem to be worth the time for international teams to worry about it, let them focus on putting together the best test teams. Is it possible that the BBL will soon end up with more fans attending than international matches? I can't imagine why anyone would go and see Australia vs England in a T20 during Ashes season, though the Big Bash does seem incredibly popular for what it is.
awbraae  15th February, 2013 06:41:29  

Notes on Victorian Cricket Attendances
Awbraae, I think both ODI and T20I suffer from an absence of point outside the world cup. The associate matches in those formats are interesting enough, but they mean something for the teams involved. At some point I guess, I should put together the reform proposal I've had in mind.

The BBL would need to double aggregate attendance to pass international cricket. (The TV numbers are well behind fwiw). Both those scenarios are possible, but it will require a serious scaling back of the ODI season (apparently that is in the works) so that the BBL can be both longer and have the star players that will drive attendance.
Russ  15th February, 2013 14:05:12