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Double-header a glimpse of BBL Christmas future

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Expert
24th December, 2018
9

It’s Christmas Eve, and I hope you’ve all got your shopping done. And if you’re on the roads today, I do hope you travel safely. Come tonight, though, you won’t be blankly changing channels looking for something, anything, to fill the BBL void now that the competition is underway.

Because tonight, and this afternoon in fact, for the first time in the history of the revamped Big Bash League, there are games scheduled on Christmas Eve.

And that can only mean a Christmas Night BBL match is the next step.

Over the first seven seasons of the BBL, cricket fans have been left wondering what to do on Christmas Eve, with no games scheduled on the night the fat red man makes his whirlwind circumnavigation of the globe. In the third season of the competition they didn’t play on 23 December either.

And for all that time, even if opinions have been divided over whether a game should be played on Christmas Night or not, the overwhelming desire has been there to see a game on Christmas Eve.

Here’s my corresponding column from 2015:

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Never mind controversial notions about playing Big Bash League games on Christmas Day in the future, there is a much bigger and much more immediate BBL issue at hand right now:

No. Game. Tonight.

I can’t understate how big a crisis this is. Have you seen the TV guide for tonight? I mean, really looked at what we’re going to watch in this sudden cricket-free vacuum? Miss Fisher, Destination Flavour Christmas, the movie Frozen for goodness’ sakes, Shrek the Halls, and Mrs bloody Doubtfire shape as your non-BBL options. The time to panic is here.

On this front, expansion of the BBL schedule this summer has been a godsend, because as far as I can tell, tonight’s viewing hasn’t improved in three years.

And make no mistake, expansion of the BBL out to ten games per side is why we have not just a game tonight but a game this afternoon too.

Faced with the need to fit more ‘product’ into a time frame that hasn’t increased that much, Cricket Australia didn’t really have the luxury of leaving themselves with a night free of games leading into the Christmas period.

But at least they’ve been smart about it.

Scheduling the Hobart-Melbourne Stars game for a 3:45pm start will still allow the Stars to jump on a flight out of Hobart within an hour or two of completing the game.

Equally, a Sydney derby at the Sydney Showground will mean no travel at all and will leave Christmas with the players’ families the next day unhindered (import players on both sides notwithstanding).

James Faulkner

(AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

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Quite obviously a Sydney or Melbourne derby on Christmas Night would be the way to go too. The desire to let players remain at home over Christmas would be strong but doesn’t have to preclude games being played. Smart scheduling can resolve most issues like this.

And indeed that’s what will happen when the inevitable Christmas Night game comes around.

When the Australian broke the story back at the end of September that the Australian Cricketers Association had informed its members of an agreement put into place with CA, this was exactly how it was framed to the players.

“As a reflection of our commitment to the partnership and revenue-share model with Cricket Australia, the ACA has agreed that if CA and the broadcasters deem it to be appropriate in the future, then CA has the ability to schedule a BBL local derby on Christmas Day,” the Australian reported the ACA letter to players stating.

“This will be subject to some important provisions to maximise the time players spend with their families on Christmas Day.”

The players agreeing to this concept is obviously huge, and these provisions will include flying families in and putting on a Christmas Day function as currently happens with the Australian Test side before the Boxing Day Test.

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The success of the Sydney derby tonight will undoubtedly be a factor.

And if a Sydney derby on Christmas Eve does well, both crowd-wise and on TV, then it probably becomes a discussion between Cricket NSW and Victoria as to who hosts the Christmas Night match.

For one thing, cricket might be loath to go up against Carols by Candlelight, held in Melbourne on Christmas Eve and attended in huge numbers by families every year.

For another thing, if CA are already putting on a Christmas Day function in Melbourne each year, why not just expand it and include the two BBL sides?

The move to putting games on Christmas Eve after seven seasons of not doing so shows that Cricket Australia is edging closer toward its long-stated goal of becoming the first professional Australian sporting code to play on Christmas Day.

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The only question that remains is the small matter of when.