arbitrary stuff that comes to mind: whenever I feel like thinking aloud

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I love cricket, so why am I not going to the Wanderers anymore?

The picture is from a cricket match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park in Centurion in December of 2003, which is still a much more fan oriented venue than its bigger brother down the drag in Illovo, Johannesburg.
I always loved cricket.
It was the first game that I was able to play as a boy, and although I was never really very good at it, I couldn't get enough. Pickup matches in parks, and later in boarding school would always find me amongst the hopefuls last to be picked, but first in enthusiasm!

TV came very late to my family, so the habit of being at the ground stuck with me.
In the early 2000's I moved to Rosebank: and one of the attractions was the Wanderers just down the road. Close enough to walk to, in fact. So I was one of those people that you see on TV, where there are more players on the field and in the dressing rooms then there are stretched out in the stands.

It never worried me that they weren't large crowds watching cricket. In fact, in some way that was part of its attraction. The fact that the game persisted at the grassroots level despite everything else, for me that was always pretty cool. Truth to tell, you get bigger crowds at the club games than at the Currie cup and similar provincial games. And I still wander down to the zoo lake these days, and idly stand by in the late mid-afternoon sun on Saturday afternoon and watch for a while. Mostly the spectators are family and friends, and it's a pretty safe space for kids to run around and make a noise. So maybe that's why cricket is still so popular with ordinary people.

you might say it's a little bit odd that I no longer attend any of the international matches up there at the big Wanderers Stadium. It's not a friendly place any more to take your friends for a day's outing. From the security guards with their officious, invasive, and plain stupid regulations, which they enforce as if the purpose of the game was to provide them with the platform to exercise their authority; to the rip off vendors, whose sole aim is to foist off bad food at ridiculous prices: heaven help you if you have any sort of dietary restriction, because they confiscate your food/drinks at the gates and make you sit hungry for the rest of the day.

Now I read that the cricket authorities have appointed a marketing firm to find out why people are you no longer coming to their grounds. I guess that they are worried the advertisers will leave them if the grounds are empty ~after all, the shorter forms of the game feed off the atmosphere of the grounds, and that's what the advertisers hook into.

I could have told them the answers to why people are staying away: first off the game is set up for corporate advertising, and not for the people who love and watch the game. We are not consumers, looking to be wooed away from other attractions. We are cricket lovers, come for the cricket. Places where the cricket is no longer the primary concern, why would we be there?

Sad, isn't it? Our cricket administrators just don't get it:
If English football has shown one thing, it's that the fans will tolerate anything when the game is the thing.
It's not too much cricket that's the problem ~it's too much hoopla tied to commercial interests.
You can't build the love of the game through marketing experiences, and finding more and more "exciting" experiences. Sooner or later, something more "exciting" comes across the horizon. Without the true fans there is no game, so put your money into building up cricket lovers, down there at the grassroots.

And here is the funniest thing of all: if I don't watch it at the ground, chances are I won't be watching the match on TV either.

The picture is from a game between South Africa and Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park in Centurion in December of 2003, which is still a much more fan oriented venue than its bigger brother down the drag in Illovo, Johannesburg.


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