MELBOURNE: Australian cricket continues to innovate and grow to new heights, with the past 12 months featuring records for attendance, TV viewing and online audiences, highlighting the game's position as Australia’s favourite sport, Cricket Australia's annual general meeting in Brisbane heard Tuesday.
With an operating deficit of A$50.8 million ($39.61 million) and net assets declining to A$98.6m for the 2016-17 financial year, results were in line with management and budgetary expectations and the four-year, Long Range Plan (LRP).
Cricket Australia manages its finances over a four-year cycle to smooth out the annual fluctuations in broadcast revenue, which varies according to which teams are visiting Australia each summer. The financial year just gone, is the final year of the latest four-year cycle. There has been a surplus achieved over the cycle, compared to a deficit over the previous four-year cycle.
Three directors were confirmed as being re-elected in accordance with the company’s constitution: Jacquie Hey, Mark Taylor and Tony Harrison.
The AGM heard that Australian Cricket unveiled its new five-year strategy just last month. Since 2011, Cricket Australia has fundamentally changed its governance – now boasting an independent board, and a more effective working relationship with the State and Territory Associations, to allow cricket to combine as one team.
In the most recent strategic period, from 2014 to 2017, cricket has seen many achievements.
Participation has grown from 1.1 million to a new record of 1.4 million.
Attendance for the summer of 2013-14 – an Ashes year – was 1.7m. In the 2016-17 summer, cricket set an all-time attendance record of around 2 million.
Four years ago, Cricket Australia had A$27.8 million committed in its strategic growth fund for future investment. As of today, A$88m is committed.
In the season just passed, Cricket Australia introduced several fan-focused innovations to international cricket, including two day-night Test matches and the popular Pool Deck @ The Gabba, along with Field of Flavours at several matches, which offered a range of multicultural food options.
784,332 fans attended the two Commonwealth Bank Test Series against South Africa and Pakistan, the Victoria Bitter One-Day International Series against New Zealand and Pakistan, the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars series against South Africa, and the KFC T20 International Series against Sri Lanka, which was played as double headers with the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars series against New Zealand.
Highlights included the 125,993 people who attended the Commonwealth Bank Day-Night Test between Australia and South Africa at Adelaide Oval, surpassing the record set last year, and the crowd of 78,095 that witnessed the Commonwealth Bank Day-Night Test between Australia and Pakistan at the Gabba, a record for non-Ashes attendance at a Brisbane Test.
The record attendance figures for international cricket were backed up by strong TV ratings across the summer. An average of 1.05 million watched the Test, One-Day International, and T20 International matches broadcast on the Nine Network, with a peak audience of 2.189 million during Session 3 on Day 4 of the Commonwealth Bank Test against South Africa in Adelaide.
The second season of the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League was another great success, with more than 121,000 fans heading along to matches throughout the season. An increased number of matches televised by Network Ten – 12, up from 10 in WBBL|01 – was well received, with an average of 239,000 people tuning in per match, while Cricket Australia’s live streaming of all non-televised matches on the cricket.com.au website, Facebook and CA Live App was enjoyed by an impressive 1.5 million fans around the country. Match highlights from WBBL|02 reached more than 7.3 million fans.
The KFC Big Bash League continued its incredible growth in popularity in its sixth season, with 1,053,999 fans around the country flocking to matches at an average of 30,114 people per match, a 2.3% increase on last year, placing it in the top 10 biggest leagues in the world in terms of average attendance. Of the 35 matches in the season, 20 were sold out, with the Sydney Thunder, Brisbane Heat, Adelaide Strikers, Hobart Hurricanes, Sydney Sixers, and Perth Scorchers all recording capacity crowds. The derby between the Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades at the MCG on 1 January drew a crowd of 71,162, the largest attendance of BBL|06. Memberships for BBL clubs also grew considerably this season, with the 48,750 people now club members representing a 29% increase year on year.
The BBL remained a consistently popular TV offering, with an average of more than one million people tuning into every match. The TV ratings for the BBL saw it win 31 of 35 nights and cement itself as the number one ranked TV program for families over the summer.
Cricket Australia’s digital properties also had a phenomenal year, with the Cricket Network the top-ranked sports destination in the country between November and January thanks to an average unique audience of 2.46 million, peaking at 2.78 million in January.
Across all platforms, CA Digital’s Cricket Network attracted more than 135 million video views between November and January and live streamed more than 200 days of cricket, in addition to coverage on Nine and Ten. This included live streams of the WBBL, the Australia A series, international tour matches and the national underage championships, ensuring fans had unprecedented access to more cricket than ever before.
CA Digital’s social media channels also drove strong engagement during the season, with the cricket.com.au Facebook audience alone growing by 96% (reaching more than 56 million people, and delivering more than 40 million video views).
Cricket Australia’s CEO, James Sutherland, said cricket had a strong platform.
“I’d like to start by thanking everyone involved in such a successful 2016-17 season, including the 225,000-plus volunteers who are the lifeblood of our game at community level, and the employees of cricket at state, territory and national level. Also thank you to our Chairman and Board for their guidance and support through what has been a very busy and successful 12 months.
“We are on the eve of one of the biggest summers on record, with both our women’s and men’s teams vying for the Ashes.
“The Australian men are currently ranked five in Tests, three in ODIs and six in T20Is. Yes, we have a young team, but the Australian public rightly expects them to keep rising to the challenges of international cricket. We have not forgotten their success in the 2015 World Cup but there is no doubt that the upcoming Ashes – for both the men and the women – is the overwhelming focus for all involved and we wish our players well for the huge summer ahead.
“The women held top spot in the ICC team rankings until only recently, moving to number 2 in the annual update by just decimal points to England. They did win the ICC’s inaugural Women’s Championship last year, but I know they were bitterly disappointed not to win the recent ICC World Cup.’’
Mr Sutherland said cricket’s new collective agreement with the players, which includes women for the first time, was a major achievement of the past year.
“Under our new MOU with our players, we believe we have the first gender-neutral pay system in Australian sport and all our women, both international and domestic, can turn their dreams of a sporting life into reality.
“In the war for sporting talent, it is not just pay that captures the attention – young sportspeople must believe that they will be provided with the right support and opportunities to make the most of their talent.’’
Mr Sutherland the new five-year strategy would provide the impetus for Australian cricket to reach even greater heights.
“Prior to launching our new strategy, over 12 months we engaged with fans, volunteers, staff and players within all states and territories and Cricket Australia to ensure that we had a clear understanding of the needs of our game, the competitive challenges, and the best way to ensure that cricket remains a fundamental part of Australian culture.
“Our new five-year strategy, as you would expect, has high performance as one of its key themes, and we maintain the ambition to see both teams reach number 1 in all formats. Just as importantly, we want to deliver the best high performance system for the players themselves.
“Our other themes all build upon the foundation that has been created since 2011. We intend to be number 1 for fans and give them what they want, in particular growing the Big Bash; we will be number 1 for participation; the leading sport for women and girls; we will promote cricket to inspire a love for the game; we will use technology to deliver great experiences for all; and we will maximise our long-term, sustainable revenue so that we can invest in the game.
“These seven themes have been embraced by everyone in Australian cricket, and they provide us with a blueprint that will deliver even greater levels of success than those we have achieved since 2011.’’
To view the annual report, click here...