Sydney really wants a day-night Test. Well, not the whole city; I imagine most Sydneysiders don’t care too much. But the New South Welshpeople that make up the SCG Trust and Cricket NSW certainly do. Following the 2016 SCG non-Test, the SCG Trust proposed to Cricket Australia that it host a day-night Test this summer.
SCG Trust Chairman, Tony Shepherd, said at the time “Cricket works in Sydney, it works at the Sydney Cricket Ground because we are connected to the CBD and in the heart of the most densely populated suburbs in Australia.”
No worries you might think. If Sydney wanted to run the New Year’s Test as day-night that should be up to them, really. Oh, but the SCG Trust did not want to run their Test as day-night, they wanted to take Bellerive’s Test instead. Two Tests for the SCG. Well, it didn’t happen; Bellerive hosted the debaculous second Test against South Africa and it appeared Hobart had more to worry from Canberra than Sydney in the future.
All that would have been fine; ludicrous but fine. Unfortunately the head of Cricket NSW, Andrew Jones, said during this year’s SCG Test that it “makes sense” that Sydney should be awarded a second Test in six Test summers. Apparently the argument runs Sydney has 25% of Australia’s population, therefore deserves 25% of its top level cricket.
Ok, then. In a way Shepherd and Jones are to be thanked – for comic value alone! But also because they have given us arguments we can test for what it’s worth in this post-truth world. So let’s do that.
Cricket works in Sydney
The SCG is connected to the CBD and in the heart of Australia’s most densely populated suburbs. Both reasonable claims so require no further examination. However, does cricket actually work in Sydney? Australia’s largest city with such ready access to punters – you’d expect the largest crowds in the country, right? Well, apparently not.
Here’s the average daily crowd for major cricket events (international and BBL) at each Test venue thus far this summer (up to and including Hobart Hurricanes v Sydney Thunder, 8 January 2017).
So, despite how “cricket works in Sydney” it currently has only the third highest average daily crowd this summer, more than 12,000 a day behind Adelaide Oval. There is every chance the SCG will fall below the Gabba by the end of the summer too as the Heat take all before them. And what about next year when the Perth has a 60,000 capacity stadium? It leaves you to wonder what would it look like if cricket didn’t work in Australia’s largest city? Yeah, nah Sydney.
Sydney has 25% of Australia’s population, therefore deserves 25% of its top level cricket
First off, Sydney doesn’t have 25% of Australia’s population. As at June 2015 Greater Sydney had an estimated population of 4.921 million, 20.7% of Australia’s 23.778 million. Closer to one fifth than a quarter.
Secondly, two Tests in a six Test summer is not 25%; it is 33%. Given in a normal six Test summer Sydney gets 16.7% of the available Test cricket, even using a population argument that is a much fairer outcome than receiving 33.3%. But seeing as you’ve opened the population door, Sydney, the only way it could be argued your population warrants more cricket is if this advantage actually put bums on seats. So, let’s have a look from a population perspective.
Here’s International and BBL cricket attendances this summer at the Test venues as a percentage of each city’s population. Where it relates to a BBL game in a city with two teams the city’s population has been halved for that game (unless a derby).
There’s really no point in having more cricket if only 0.6% of your population, one in 160 people, rock up to any given day’s cricket. Not even half filling your stadium. Particularly when 5.3% of the population of the city you are trying to steal a Test from attend their cricket (one in 19 people for those playing at home). It could be reasonably said that cricket works in Hobart better than it does in Sydney.
Sure the comparison is silly in parts – it’s just not possible for a city as large as Sydney to get anywhere near those per capita numbers. However, there are two cities with better real and per capita attendances than Sydney (in Adelaide’s case, significantly better on both counts). Until it can get more people to its cricket the SCG Trust and Cricket NSW should be begging, not choosing.
The good news, I think, is that Cricket Australia has reportedly no interest in giving Sydney another Test. In the meantime while the Sydney movers and shakers keep pushing for a second Test, the rest of us have licence to mock freely; a positive outcome in and of itself.
Mock away – you now have some figures to back it up!