The recent temporary withdrawal of Shane Warne from the Melbourne Stars has put the magnifying glass on the Big Bash League.
If players are treating it as a sideshow, what is the future of the league?
Crowds are well down, and TV ratings, whilst still very good, are significantly lower than the last year.
A lot of people that went to games last year aren’t doing so this year, and a lot of people that watched the games on TV last year are doing something else.
The Big Bash was always set up as first and foremost an entertainment product.
That was probably necessary to get the initial bums on seats. But to be a long term success, the organisers have to keep in mind that they’re promoting a sporting league, not a pay per view World Wrestling Entertainment event.
But back to Warne.
He took off to England at late notice for Christmas, well after most of the people that attended the Stars’ game against Adelaide had purchased tickets.
It wasn’t the birth of a child or something equally as significant, he just wanted to spend Christmas in the Northern hemisphere with Liz Hurley.
And he did it on a few days notice. Without beginning to imagine the reaction if it occurred in any other major sporting league (and the lack of condemnation for Warne speaks volumes), it’s pretty clear that Warne’s care factor for the BBL lies somewhere in between what he has for breakfast and the weather forecast in Timbuktu. If he doesn’t care, why should the fans?
We’re being asked to support one of a bunch of new teams (which I don’t think was a bad idea) and invest at least some of our time and money into these names.
Is it reasonable to expect the players to at least take it seriously?
I’d suggest that the league has a credibility problem, and it’s something they’re going to need to fix if they want to last more than a few years.
Sports teams that can’t get some degree of supporter loyalty are going to face an uphill battle to survive, and they’re going to struggle to get that if the players are treating it as a means to a pay cheque and little else.
Australian sports fans aren’t stupid.